Exploiting fetish of city's wealthy lots, who do not mind shelling out crores of rupees on wedding functions, to spend lavishly, hundreds of marriage palaces operational in the city are charging arbitrarily and issuing bills of half the amount than the negotiated price to evade taxes worth crores of rupees annually. With no check by the Income Tax department and a uniform rate policy in place, the practice is going on unabated in the city.
According to sources, there are stark possibilities that the I-T sleuths are working hand in glove with owners of most of the marriage palaces in the city. With a sudden spurt in spending power among the wealthy lot in the city, some of the residents even go to the extent of spending more than `10 crore for a marriage hall, catering and decoration arrangements, where only part of it actually shows on the books of accounts of the marriage palaces.
"The tax evasion nexus in marriage palaces has been flourishing for many years, but with the practice going unchecked and the I-T department not ensuring any concrete action to eradicate the menace for a long time, it has become a money-minting business that is growing at a rapid pace," said an I-T official, on condition of anonymity.
There are more than 500 marriage palaces, including the most sort after palaces at Ferozepur Road and Pakhowal Road.
Owner of a marriage palace Bhavnesh Goel said, "The overall arrangements from hall booking to catering and decoration, apart from other miscellaneous expenses, amounts to `10 lakh minimum in most of the palaces, but there is no maximum limit on arrangements as there are people who go to the extent of paying more than `10 crore for a single event.
There is a special arrangements for imported food items and other decorative articles from overseas that runs into lakhs of rupees. But without stringent measures in place by the I-T department, only a part of the payment reflects on the account books with the mutual understanding between the two parties.
However, president of Ludhiana Marriage Palaces Association Amarjeet Singh expressed his ignorance of any such illegality taking place in any of the marriage palaces in the city and clarified that if it exists and brought to their knowledge, strict action would be taken against the party."
Principal director, Income Tax (investigation wing) for Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir region HS Sohi did not respond to the numerous phone call attempts.