CBIC asks GST officers to block ITC only on basis of evidence, not suspicion
The CBIC has come out with guidelines on blocking tax credit by GST field officers, saying that such blocking should be based on 'material evidence' and not just out of 'suspicion'. The guidelines laid down five specific circumstances in which such credit could be blocked by a senior tax officer. These include availing of credit without any invoice or any valid document or availing of credit by purchasers on invoices on which GST has not been paid by sellers.
The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) said the commissioner, or an officer authorised by him, not below the rank of assistant commissioner, must form an opinion for blocking of input tax credit (ITC NSE 1.84 %) only after "proper application of mind" considering all the facts of the case.
"It is reiterated that the power of disallowing debit of amount from electronic credit ledger must not be exercised mechanically and careful examination of all the facts of the case is important to determine cases(s) fit for exercising power under rules 86A," it said.
The government had introduced Rule 86A in GST rules in December 2019 giving powers to taxmen to block the ITC available in the electronic credit ledger of a taxpayer if the officer has "reasons to believe" that the ITC was availed fraudulently. Till early last month, taxmen had blocked Rs 14,000 crores worth of input tax credit (ITC) of 66,000 businesses under this rule.
The CBIC in its guidelines dates November 2 said the remedy of disallowing debit of amount from electronic credit ledger being, by its nature, extraordinary, has to be resorted to with utmost circumspection and with maximum care and caution.
It contemplates an objective determination based on intelligent care and evaluation as distinguished from a purely subjective consideration of suspicion.
The reasons are to be based on material evidence available or gathered concerning fraudulent availing of input tax credit or ineligible input tax credit availed as per the conditions/grounds under sub-rule (1) of Rule 86A.
These guidelines have recommended monetary limits for the division of powers between commissions, joint commissioners, and assistant commissioners on blocking the tax credit.
For blocking of ITC above Rs 5 crore, the principal commissioner/ commissioner will make a decision. Where the monetary amount is in the range of Rs 1-5 crores, an additional commissioner or joint commissioner will make a decision, while for those less than Rs 1 crore deputy commissioners/ assistant commissioner rank officer will take a decision on ITC blocking.
AMRG & Associates Senior Partner Rajat Mohan said, "If these broad guidelines are followed by central as well as state tax officers in letter and spirit, these will surely reduce the litigation for honest taxpayers who are currently facing harassment at the hands of tax officers."