The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is the biggest tax reform that India has seen. It has changed how goods and services are taxed in the country. ClearTax has intensively covered all topics related to GST and its impact previously.

What are shipping charges?

Shipping charges are applicable when goods are shipped (transported or delivered) to a buyer or an end-user. The seller adds this charge to the bill (to be borne/paid by the buyer). If the product in question is taxable, then there will be a tax on the shipping charges, too, depending on the rate of tax.

How are shipping charges treated under GST?

Under GST, shipping, freight, and logistic charges have changed quite a bit. As we know, when goods are transported through ships as cargo, the goods leaving the country are exports and goods entering the country are imported. These goods attract service tax.

If the transportation happens through the air, both inbound and outbound shipments are not subject to service tax. The tax liability on of terminal charges, warehousing, and cargo handling is determined based on the taxability of the principal service.  

The GST law, however, does not specify what happens when there is an exclusion for air transport. While for freight charges on ocean transportation and transaction, it is clearly defined. Also, when the place of supply is inside a taxable territory, and will there be a tax with air and ocean with respect to GST?

Dealers convert logistics and freight forwarding into a supply of services (which includes movement of goods through the sea, inland waterways, air, rail, or road). GST on freight depends if the transportation is national or international.

If in case of a domestic freight, transportation happens from a place in India to another place in the country. In this case, both points of origin and destination have to be inside the country.

On international transportation, however, international freight rules are applied. This applies if both the place of origin and destination are outside India, if one of them outside India, or both outside India.

Thus, this impacts the “Place of Supply” provision to determine the taxability of cross-border and inter-state transactions.

What is Place of Supply of Transportation?

According to GST law, the place of transportation is defined as: a) location of GST-registered recipient; b) (If the recipient is unregistered) place of supply becomes a place where goods are given for transportation.

Let us now answer some of the frequently asked questions what impact does GST have on shipping charges.

Question 1: How has the logistics of transporting goods changed post-GST?

Answer: Earlier to the implementation of GST, a manufacturer had to set up warehouses in multiple locations, although he was based out of different state to avoid CST levy and state entry taxes. The goods from his manufacturing plant would reach his own warehouses across the country, before reaching distributors and retailers. This led to higher operating costs.

Under GST, manufacturers have cut down on the number of warehouses, and because of this, warehouses now have to handle a larger input. This makes the manufacturers use a larger truck, to carry the higher tonnage of goods. It will work out to be economical and be efficient to operate, from the manufacturer's point of view.

Question 2: Are shipping charges taxable under GST, while buying a product from an e-commerce portal? What is the tax rate that is to be applied on shipping charges?

Answer: Amazon, for example, has hiked the easy shipping charge from 15% to 18% (service charge), under GST. When you buy a product that fall under the 5% GST bracket, the shipping charge will be 5%. If the product falls under 18% bracket, then the shipping charge will be 18%. Please note that GST rate is charged depending on which bracket that product will fall under GST, i.e… 5%, 18%, 28%, etc.

Question 3: If GST should be charged on freight or transportation cost charged on a tax invoice?

Answer: The tax should be charged on the total value of supply. If the transportation cost is included, then GST has to be charged at the same rate of tax charged on supply.

For example: If the goods being supplied is charged at 18%, then you have to charge tax on transport cost also at 18%. If you are not charging freight charges in the invoice and is directly paid by the buyer of goods, then GTA provision has to comply.

Question 4: What is Goods Transportation Agency (GTA)?

Answer: Any person who provides service in relation to transport of goods by road, and issues a consignment note. This becomes the GTA. Others might hire vehicles for goods transportation, but only those issuing a consignment note are considered as a GTA.

Question 5: What is a consignment note?

Answer: A consignment note is a document against the receipt of goods, issued by a goods transportation agency. This is issued for the purpose of transport of goods by road in a goods carriage. A consignment note will be serially numbered and has the names of the consignor and consignee (buyer and seller). It also has registration number of the goods carriage in which the goods are transported, details of the goods, place of origin, and place of destination. It also consists details of who pays/or have paid the tax - consigner, consignee, or the GTA.

Question 6: Are there any goods on which GST will not be applicable while transportation?

Answer: Yes. The below goods will not be applicable for GST (only when transportation is done by a goods transport agency):

  • Milk, salt, and food grains (including flour, pulses, and rice)
  • Agricultural produce
  • Organic manure
  • Relief materials meant for victims of a natural or man-made disaster
  • Newspaper or magazine that is registered with the Registrar of Newspapers
  • Defence or military equipment
  • Goods for which consideration charged for the transportation of goods on a consignment transported in a single carriage, which is lesser than Rs 1,500
  • Goods for which consideration charged for transportation of all such goods for a single consignee does not exceed Rs 750


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