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November 22, 2004

By S K Bhardwaj

TODAY, a major question troubling the trade and industry circles is that will the CENVAT credit of additional customs duty if paid on the inputs by way of debit entry in the DEPB be admissible?

Our Submission

The last sentence of para 4.3.5 of the EXIM Policy 2002-07 has been deleted by Notification No.28(RE 203/2002-07) dated 28.1.2004 para 11 issued by Central Government under section 5 of the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992. Before deletion the para read :-

“Normally, the exports made under the DEPB Scheme shall not be entitled for drawback. However, the additional customs duty/ excise duty paid in cash on inputs under DEPB shall be adjusted as CENVAT credit or duty Duty Drawback as per Rules framed by the Department of Revenue. In cases, where the additional customs duty is adjusted from DEPB, no benefit of CENVAT/Drawback shall be admissible.”

On being removed last sentence from above para, prima facie it appears that CENVAT credit is now admissible in case of the payment of CVD through debit in DEPB. The new para reads:-

“Normally, the exports made under the DEPB Scheme shall not be entitled for drawback. However, the additional customs duty/ excise duty paid in cash or through debit under DEPB shall be adjusted as CENVAT credit or duty Duty Drawback as per Rules framed by the Department of Revenue ”

But it is not true when it is analysed in the proper perspective.

CENVAT credit on the inputs or capital goods is governed by the CENVAT credit Rules, 2002 (now 2004) and not by the Export-Import Policy (Now Foreign Trade Policy) provisions. Rule 3 of the CENVAT Credit Rules, provides for the availability of CENVAT Credit on inputs or capital goods received in the factory if specified duties therein paid on any inputs or capital goods.

Vide Rule 3 of the CENVAT credit rules , Additional Customs Duty (CVD) leviable under 3 of the Customs Tariff act, paid on the inputs or capital goods is available as CENVAT credit.

Whether the “adjustment of additional customs duty by way of debit in the DEPB” can be considered as ‘ additional customs duty paid’?

Debit of customs duties involved on the goods imported in the DEPB is governed by exemption Notification No. 45/2002-Cus dated 22.04.2002 as amended. This provides that the goods imported under the DEPB Scheme are exempt from the whole of the duty of customs, additional duty of customs and special additional duty of customs, subject to fulfillment of the various conditions mentioned therein. One of the conditions is that the importer shall produce the DEPB before the proper officer for making the debit entry therein at the time of importation. By condition no. (v) of the notification, an option has been given to the importer to forego exemption in respect of the additional customs duty and pay the same in cash.

As per Notification No. 45/2002 if the additional customs duty is got adjusted in the DEPB, then it will amount to availment of the ‘exemption’ from customs duty. On the contrary, if the additional customs duty is paid in cash, then it will be deemed ‘non availment of exemption’ from additional customs duty.

The adjustment of additional customs duties in DEPB in terms of notification No.45/2002 shall amount to ‘availment of exemption’ and not the ‘payment of duty’, so the CENVAT Credit thereof shall not be admissible under Rule 3 of the Cenvat Credit Rules, 2004. The expression ‘duty paid’ has to be read in contrast to the expression ‘exemption availed’. Availment of exemption can’t be consanguineous to payment.

Regarding the deletion of last sentences from para 4.3.5 of the EXIM Policy, it does not necessarily follow that credit of additional duty paid/adjusted through DEPB will be admissible unless and until, a corresponding amendment is made in the Cenvat Credit Rules, 2004 as well and/ or 45/2002-Customs Notificaton. This is because credit has not been allowed for any exemption enjoyed under Customs Law.

The above is a classic case where Ministry of Commerce has set the intention to give importers Cenvat facility of DEPB debit of CVD but Ministry of Finance has not followed it up with their own amendment of Customs and Central Excise Rules. This is one among many instances of dichotomy in decisions of two Govt organs.

(The author is working with L G Electronics India Pvt Ltd )

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