The Centre will come out with amendments to Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Rules, 2006 synchronised with Goods and Services Tax (GST) laws by end of this month, a top official in the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry said at an ASSOCHAM event held in New Delhi. “We have been working for a few months on the amendment of SEZ Rules, 2006 to synchronise it with the GST laws, this is under active consideration of the government,” said Mr Bidyut Behari Swain, additional secretary in Department of Commerce said at an ASSOCHAM International SEZ Investment Summit.

“With due consultation process with Department of Revenue, I am glad to tell you that this fairly elaborate amendments of the rules is likely to come out now by the end of this month, it is almost at the final stage and we shall be issuing it,” added Mr Swain. He also informed that the Commerce Ministry has created a group of eminent persons to develop a roadmap for future of SEZs to have a very fresh look at it and come up with ideas which could be quite important for policy making process. “This group is deliberating today for the second time in this month itself, we really put a lot of hope on this and we feel that the ideas they come up with eventually in another one month or so would really helpful for us in the policy making process,” said Mr Swain.

Noting that while the Department of Commerce consistently looks at facilitating ease of doing business by removing bottlenecks wherever they exist, it was observed that there is a possibility of different authorities handling administrative and financial matters being at slight variance with each other. “We have taken up a project in which we would like to have a very clear set of guidelines regarding how administrative and financial matters by the authorities are carried out and we are hopeful that we will come out with a report in two months which should be implemented in three months,” informed Mr Swain.

Talking about the SEZ Rules and SEZ Act amendment to be synchronised with GST Laws, Mr Pranab Kumar Das, special secretary and Member Customs, CBIC (Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs) also said that it would come by the end of this month. “We have been very aggressively and actively participating in this exercise because any time a foreign trade policy is changed, the CBIC is always there,” he said. He also urged the SEZ units and operators to look for other markets instead of concentrating on few markets like the US, EU or Dubai. “I would urge you to look into different markets like Africa, Latin America and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), for that if required inter-ministerial deliberations can take place, we can also take help of our embassies abroad to find out where our exports can have a more competitive advantage,” added Mr Das.

He further said that CBIC will get in touch with Commerce Ministry to explore possibility of connecting SEZ Online with NIDB (National Import Database) for better uniformity and transparency in operations. “We will definitely get in touch with Ministry of Commerce and try to find out whether the SEZ Online can also be housed in our system and with facilities provided to development commissioners and officials posted there so that they get benefit not only from SEZ Online but also the robust facility that is already available within CBIC,” said Mr Das. Impressing upon the need to ensure that SEZ policies are made more transparent, easy and simplified, he said that investment in the form of international and domestic is very critical to build excellent infrastructure both in terms of physical and IT (information technology) structure.

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