Insurance firms under lens for R300-cr tax evasion

Insurance companies have come under the scanner of a government intelligence agency for allegedly evading service tax of over R300 crore.

The Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI) has initiated a probe following complaints of the service tax evasion by various insurance providers. "There have been some instances of tax evasion by insurance firms. An enquiry is being conducted by officials," said a senior DGCEI official, who did not wish to be identified.

He said records of insurers are being cross-verified to ascertain any irregularities. "The inquiry so far has found service tax evasion of at least R300 crore. The investigations are underway and the amount is likely to be higher," the official said without divulging names of insurance companies under the lens.

All general policies including insurance against risk of loss to assets like motor vehicle etc is 12.36% on the annual premium paid. Whereas, the rate of service tax varies on the part of premium taken towards risk coverage for life insurance, according to a Mumbai-based service tax expert.

According to another DGCEI official, most of the irregularities have been detected in payment to insurance brokers or agents by the companies.

"During our enquiry, we found that some companies were deducting service tax from agents who were selling their products. But failed to show it on their accounts book for government scrutiny," the official said.

Besides, there have been instances where the companies were giving incorrect data of the total policies sold or renewed by them to evade tax, he said.

The total annual premium income of the insurance industry comprising life, non-life and health, is around R3.5 lakh crore, as per the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) data.

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