Automation of Central Excise and Service Tax (ACES) is the e-governance initiative by Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance. It is one of the Mission Mode Projects (MMP) of the Govt. of India under National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). It is a software application which aims at improving tax-payer services, transparency, accountability and efficiency in the indirect tax administration in India. This application is a web-based & workflow-based system that has automated all major procedures in Central Excise and Service Tax.
In the post-independent era of Indirect Tax administration in India, ACES is the most significant IT-based initiative undertaken that has transformed the way about 18.20 lakh indirect taxpayers transact their business with the department of Central Excise and Service Tax. Being an innovative reform initiative in the indirect tax department, ACES had benefited members of trade, industry and commerce.
The ACES application was initially rolled-out in the Large Tax Payer Unit (LTU) Commissionerate in Bengaluru in December, 2008. Subsequently, it was implemented across India in phases covering all 104 Central Excise, Service Tax & LTU Commissionerates with all the modules.
The ACES application has resulted in a major change in the way the Central Excise and Service Tax field formations conduct their regular business vis-a-vis the Trade & Industry. e-filing and e-processing of documents has started replacing manual filing and handling of paper documents.
The main purpose of the initiative was to re-engineer the business processes and transform the existing tax administration into a modern, efficient and transparent system. Its objective was to strike an optimal balance between trade facilitation and enforcement and to promote a culture of voluntary compliance. It aims at reducing physical interface of the business community with the departmental officers and to provide a transparent and paper-less business environment with improved taxpayer services delivered through an automated process.
To provide services to taxpayers who may not have requisite IT infrastructure/resources to use ACES, CBEC has entered into MoU's with Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) and the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) for setting up ACES Certified Facilitation Centres (CFC's) by their Members. These Centres are set up by eligible Members of ICAI/ICWAI/ICSI holding valid Certificates of Practice issued by the Institutes. The services would be available to the assessees on payment of prescribed service charges for various services such as digitisation of paper documents, on-line filing/uploading of documents such as Application for Registration, Returns, Claims, Permissions and Intimations etc. in ACES.
In order to achieve the objectives of ACES, it was planned to provide the following facilities to the taxpayers:
Providing a single National Portal for transactions in Central Excise and Service Tax
Online registration and e-payment of Duties/Taxes
e-filing of returns and various claims, permissions and intimations;
Instant e-acknowledgement of documents with an Unique Document Identification Number
On-line tracking of the status of applications, claims and permissions
Online filing of refund claims and system-based processing of these claims
Presently, the following are the services offered to the assessees under ACES:
Online Registration of Central Excise Assessees and online amendments;
Online Registration of Service Tax Assessees and online amendments;
Electronic filing of Central Excise Returns;
Electronic filing of Service Tax Returns;
Electronic filing of claims, permissions & intimations submitted by assessees in the course of business with the Department;
Instant e-acknowledgement of documents with an Unique Document Identification Number;
View, file and track the status of documents filed online;
Processing of Claims, Permissions & intimations filed by the assessee;
Online Messages / Alerts to users on business-related matters;
Automated Generation of various reports
Audit Module involving selection of units and tracking of audit results
Online filing of reply to Show Cause Notice
Online filing of application for Provisional Assessment
Online filing of Refund Claims
Online filing of selected Export related documents
A dedicated 'ACES Service Desk' is established and in case of any difficulty in accessing or using the ACES Application, assessees/CFC's can seek help of service desk by sending e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org calling up the national toll-free number 1800 425 4251on any working day from Monday to Friday between 9 AM and 7 PM.
Services covered under the ACES Application are offered free of cost to the users throughout India. It is available to around 3.10 lakh Central Excise assesses & Dealers and 15.10 lakh Service Tax assessees across India falling under 104 Central Excise, Service Tax & LTU Commissionerates with all the modules. The ACES website (www.aces.gov.in)has attracted hits of over 90.38 Crores so far, evidencing its vast usage by the assessees. There are 1027 Central Excise & Service Tax offices in the country and around 10,000 Departmental officers work on the ACES application across 104 Commissionerates in India.
Automation of Central Excise and Service Tax (ACES) is also a valuable platform for a smooth and successful transition to the coming GST regime and it provides the bedrock for a modern e-governance-based indirect tax administration in India.