Ahead of the GST rollout on July 1, the newly-appointed CBEC chief Vanaja Sarna has called upon field officers to realign mindset to their new role as a national tax administrator with strong enforcement capability and full accountability.
In a letter to CBEC staff and field officers, Sarna, who took charge on April 1, has asked them to take “urgent steps” to increase awareness of GST among the trade and industry within the short window available before the July 1 rollout.
“We need to align our thinking with the changes that GST shall bring forth and see ourselves as a national tax administration that has the expertise in work, acumen in enforcement, accountability in function and most of all integrity in our ethos,” she wrote in the letter.
The government has set July 1 as the date for rollout of the new indirect tax regime GST, which will subsume excise, service tax, VAT and other local levies.
“As the impact of the GST law becomes more defined in the days to follow, it will become evident that when we reorient ourselves as a federal tax administration, there will be a definite positive outcome,” Sarna said.
Stating that it is a “time of historic transition for indirect tax administration”, she said the moment is “significant, challenging and arduous”.
Referring to the apprehensions expressed by some CBEC officers and disquiet in the cadre over ceding of power to state officers, Sarna said: “I want to reassure each one of you that we have a collective higher support and understanding which is firmly in place for our service.”
She wrote further, “We have always adapted to change with alacrity and demonstrated our ability to overcome the most acute challenges. There is a need for a similar attitude today.”
Sarna felt that there is sound capacity building and IT systems within the CBEC and sought support from all officers to work relentlessly towards increasing awareness for GST to provide all facilitation at the entry level.
“The duly approved reorganisation proposal has ensured there is no negative fallout on the organisational structure of the department,” she said.
As for the Customs department, Sarna said the quest should be for a right balance between ever-increasing levels of facilitation and stronger compliance management to ensure better quality of service to clients and prompt grievance redressal.
“While we focus our energies and attention on the immediate work at hand, the smooth transition to GST, there is no room for complacency or slackness in pursuing the goals we have set for ourselves in Customs administration,” she wrote.