Procedure of Excise Audit 2000 :
(i) Selection criteria of the assessees for the audit: Circular No. 995/2/2015 CX dated 27.02.2015, which has come into effect from 1st July, 2015 has specified new norms to be followed by Audit Commissionerates. The new norms do not prescribe any frequency for conducting audits. The new norms have introduced risk based selection of assessees for audit based on identified/quantified risk parameters and also introduced jurisdictional specific criteria (as opposed to uniform norm across the country) for segmenting the taxpayer into large, medium & small categories.
The criteria for categorizing an assessee as large, medium or small would be value of clearances and total excise duty paid. The threshold limits of value of clearances for categorizing the units into large, medium and small would be dependent upon (i) the available manpower in the Audit Commissionerate and (ii) the assessee base, turnover and excise duty paid by each assessee in the jurisdiction of the Audit Commissionerate. It may be noted that threshold limits may vary from one Audit Commissionerate to another Audit Commissionerate in view of varying number of assessees and quantum of value of clearances and excise duty paid in case of each assessee.
The selection of assessees would be done based on the risk evaluation method prescribed by the Directorate General of Audit. The risk evaluation method would be separately communicated to the Audit Comissionerates during the month of March / April every year. The risk assessment function will be jointly handled by National Risk Managers (NRM) situated in the Directorate General of Audit and Local Risk Managers (LRM) heading the Risk Management section of Audit Commissionerates. The Audit Commissionerates could also select few units at random or based on risk perception in each category of large, medium and small tax payers.
(ii) Desk Review: The auditors are assigned the assessees to be audited at the beginning of the financial year. The auditors are required to gather as much information about the assessee as possible. They can gather information from the departmental records, published documents like balance sheets annual statements etc., and through market enquirer. Since this can be done without interacting with the assessee, this step called as ‘desk-review’.
(iii) Documenting Information: At the stage of “Desk Review‟ the auditors may have already identified certain areas, which warrant closer examination. The auditor may also require certain documents or information from the assessee to complete his preliminary investigation. For this he may write letter to the assessee or send him a questionnaire to obtain this information. This step is called ‘gathering and documenting assessee information’.
(iv) Touring: The auditor then visits the unit of the assessee to see the actual running of the unit, the systems that are followed for maintaining records in various sections and the system of movement of goods and the related documents within the unit. This step is called ‘touring of the premises’. This gives the auditors a general overview about the procedure adopted by the assessee and the possible loopholes through which revenue leakage can take place.
(v) Audit Plan: Based on his experiences and the information gathered so far about the assessee, the auditor now makes a ‘audit plan’. The idea of developing audit plan is to list the areas which, as per the auditor are the vulnerable areas from the revenue point of view. Since number of documents/records maintained by assessee is huge in number, it also necessary that the auditor should select only some of them for the actual verification. The preparation of audit plan helps him to do that. It must be remembered that audit plan is not rigid but a dynamic concept. During the course of audit if the auditor notices certain new facts or new aspects of the planned area of audit, he can always alter the audit plan accordingly, with the approval of his supervisor. Similarly, during the actual audit, if the auditor is convinced that any area which was earlier planned for verification does not require in-depth scrutiny, he may alter the plan midway after obtaining approval of the superior officers. Preparation of audit plan is one of the most important steps of EA 2000. A well thought audit plan generally increases the success of audit result manifolds.
(vi) Verification: The most important step of audit is the conduct of actual audit, which in technical parlance is called ‘Verification’. The auditors visit the unit of the assessee on a scheduled date (informed to the assessee in advance) and carry out the scrutiny of the records of the assessee as per the audit plan. The auditor is required to compare the documentation of a fact from different documents. For example, the auditor may check the figures of clearance of finished goods showed by the assessee in central excise return with the sales figures of the said goods in Balance Sheet, Sales Tax Returns, Bank statements etc. The auditor may also enquire about the entries which appear vague (say an entry like ‘Misc. Income’) in various records and documents. The idea behind conduct of verification is to reasonably ensure that no amount, which as per the Central Excise law is chargeable to duty, escapes taxation. The process of verification is always carried out in presence of the assessee so that he can clarify the doubts and provide required information to the auditor.
(vii) Audit Objection and Audit Para: Where the auditor finds instances of short payment of duty or non-observance of Central excise procedures, he is required to discuss the issue with the assessee. After explanation provided by the assessee, if the auditor is satisfied that such non-tax compliance has occurred, he records the same as an ‘Audit Objection’ or ‘Audit Para’ of the ‘draft audit report’ that he would be preparing at the end of the verification process. Auditor is advised not to take formal objections to mere procedural lapses/ infractions/ adoption of wrong procedures, which do not result in any short payment of duty or do not have bearing upon the duty payment. In such cases the auditor is required to discuss the matter with the assessee and advise him to follow the correct procedure in future. Further, while making an audit para, attempt should be made to tabulate the duty short paid by the assessee at the spot and incorporate it in the para itself. However, if this is not possible for the paucity of time or for the want of some information not available at that time, the auditor should make a note of the same in his report.
(viii) Audit Report: At the end of the process of verification the auditor prepares an ‘Draft Audit Report’ which incorporates all the audit objections/audit paras. An audit report provides (issue or para wise) the issue in brief, the reply or the explanation of the assessee, the reason for the auditor not being satisfied with the reply, the amount of short payment (if tabulated) and the recoveries of the same (if could be made at the spot). The draft audit report is then submitted to the superior officers for review, who examine the sustainability of the objections raised by the auditors. After such review, the audit report becomes final and in cases where the disputed amounts have not already been paid by the assessee at the spot, demand notices are issued by the department for their recoveries.
(ix) Conclusion: EA 2000 is a modern, transparent and interactive method of audit wherein the auditor proceeds with audit fully conversant with the business of the assessee. On his part, the assessee is given full opportunity to explain his stand on any particular matter so that matters are resolved in full appreciation of legal position. EA 2000 is thus a participative audit.
A requirement of EA 2000 is that the auditors must be thorough in their knowledge of Centr al Excise law and procedures, notifications, instructions and circulars issued by the Finance Ministry and the judicial decisions on issues relating to central excise laws. To be successful auditor, knowledge about financial bookkeeping, accountancy and proficiency in understanding commonly used commercial books and documents is of great help. Further, being computer literate is an added requirement while auditing an assessee who maintains his accounts in electronic format.
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