Next time you visit a private clinic, nursing home or a hospital in the city for treatment, make sure that you ask them to furnish a receipt for the consultation fee (checking) charged by them. In the absence of any upper cap limit on the fee they charge, there are stern possibilities that they are duping both the patients and the income tax (I-T) department of crores of rupees annually.
With absolutely no check either by the I-T department or the state watchdogs, hundreds of private clinics, nursing homes and hospitals arbitrarily overcharge patients without issuing any receipts. The income tax department is caught fumbling in the dark as the practice of dodging tax by these hospitals or clinics amounts to loss of crores of rupees.
Simran Kaur, an employee of a nursing home in the city, said, "It has become a pattern now. Neither doctors and private medical institutions are comfortable in issuing a receipt for treatment, nor the patients are bothered to demand it from them.
Exploiting the situation, the doctors in the private hospitals of the city unabashedly continue to fleece them. However, what is intriguing is the fact that despite being aware of the ill-practices flourishing right under the nose of the income tax department, no concrete action has been taken to discourage the ill-practice."
"Medical sector in the city is rapidly taking a commercial shape, in which interests of patients, in terms of providing quality healthcare, takes a backseat," said Kaur.
An official from the income tax department, on the condition of anonymity, said, "Medical sector is marred with commercialisation rather than a social welfare. Such practices are not new and are within the knowledge of the department, but no concrete action has been taken in this regard."
"There are possibilities that medical honchos are working hand in glove with a few income tax officials and are indirectly leveraging the patronage and getting invloved in multi-crore medical tax evasion nexus. The unethical practices are prevalent since years now with authorities concerned merely playing as a mute spectator," he added.
President, Punjab Medical Council, GS Grewal said, "A number of medical institutions are looting the city residents and costing dear to the income tax department by not disclosing their taxable income at the end of the year. It is, therefore, very important for the common man (patients) to understand that they are very much entitled to demand a receipt for their treatment from their respective hospitals or clinics."
"The medical bodies can take strict action against the evil doers or tax evaders in medical sector only if the patients or city residents put forward an official (written) complaint against them," added Grewal.
Principal director, Income Tax (investigation wing), Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir region, HS Sohi said, "We have not received any specific complaint against any party. If we receive any concrete information from our reliable sources or any quarters of the society, we will ensure a strict action against the culprits."