The state regional transport offices (RTOs) will no longer accept a bank challan as proof for professional tax paid by transporters for commercial vehicles. For now on, only original stamped tax certificates will be considered valid.
A day after the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) conducted raids at various RTOs in Thane, Navi Mumbai and other parts of the state, transport commissioner Dilip Jadhav on Wednesday sent letters asking the officials to make the necessary changes.
“We have asked all RTOs to stop accepting challans from people who come to pay their professional tax. There is no way for us to check whether the challans are real or forged,” Jadhav said.
Every transporter owning a tourist, commercial or a light carrier vehicle has to pay professional tax. Typically, the transporters are given a challan, an initial document issued after paying the money to the bank, which they have to produce to the RTO for the completion of formalities.
However, recent raids show that many of them are fake or forged.
In Tuesday’s raids, the ACB teams found incriminating documents and bogus bank challans, which have been seized for scrutiny. The professional tax scam in the RTO is estimated to be running in crores.
“We will take stringent action against any official found to be in involved I the fraud,” Jadhav said.
According to officials, no action can be initiated against any transporter who is found to have fraudulently escaped payment of professional tax as there is no penal provision
for that under the Motor Vehicles Act.
“We collect around Rs 4,000 crore annually from all RTOs as taxes of which professional tax amounts to Rs 40 crore,” a transport department official said.
Special teams formed to investigate scam
Several small teams comprising officials from the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), sales tax office and the regional transport offices (RTO) have been formed to investigate the multi-crore professional tax evasion scam at RTOs.
Sources in the ACB told Hindustan Times that the teams have been kept small for administrative convenience and to analyse the documents that have been seized.
On Tuesday, the ACB had conducted simultaneous raids at RTOs in Chinchwad (Pune), Navi Mumbai, Aurangabad, Ahmadnagar, Sangli and Kolhapur. Around 150 officers and staff of the state ACB had taken part in the raids.
Sources said the officers and men who were part of the raid would be a part of the ACB teams while the sales tax and RTOs have contributed their staff in scrutinising the seized documents.
On October 22, the ACB had raided the Thane RTO following complaints of professional tax evasion by the RTO.
Following a government order four years ago, RTOs have been authorised to collect professional tax from owners of commercial vehicles. Earlier the tax was paid at the sales tax office. However, RTO officials, in collusion with private agents and transporters, were duping the government by preparing bogus bank challans and withholding deposits at the transport commissioner’s office.
The ACB has already started scrutinising the papers seized from the Thane RTO.