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All about summons under GST

Updated on :  

08 min read.

Summons, in general, means to call upon or demand the presence of a person. Section 70 of the CGST Act 2017 lays down the law regarding the power of the officer to summon any person before them to provide evidence in the form of documents regarding any specific matter.

What is summons under GST?

GST summons

The steps involved in proceedings under GST law first start with a summons. The officer has the power under Section 70 of the CGST Act 2017 to summon any person before them.

This power is likely to be exercised by the officer, especially where the person must produce evidence in documents or have their statement recorded as part of an inquiry. It is imperative to note that the persons summoned by the officer are duty-bound to appear before them. The officer has the power to summon any person whose attendance he thinks is necessary.

What happens if one fails to attend to summons?

It is important to note that summons proceedings are equivalent to judicial proceedings. Therefore, if a person fails to do any of the following, he shall be liable to prosecution under various sections of the Indian Penal Code-

  • Fails to appear without any reasonable justification on the summons date
  • Provides false evidence
  • Found to be absconding to avoid the services of summons
  • Fails to produce the electronic records or documents requested
  • Fails to appear even after repeated summons being issued

In addition to the above, a monetary penalty will be imposed on the person under Section 122 (3)(d) of the CGST Act for failure to appear after the issuance of the summons or for failure to provide documentary evidence despite the issuance of a summons. The penalty shall amount to Rs. 25,000.

Moreover, the person’s refusal to record any statement before the officer will lead to the summoning officer informing his superior office about the same. These cases are to be brought to the notice of the Magistrate.

Checklist for the validity of summons received

The format of a GST summons is as follows-

GST summons

It is to be noted that the following details have to be presented in the GST Summons-

  • DIN (Document Identification Number) must be generated and quoted on the GST summons issued for investigation purposes. The validity of the summons comes into question if the DIN is absent from the GST summons.
  • The language used in the summons should be civil and not be something that borders on harassment of the taxpayer.
  • The summons should be prepared in a manner that justifies the reasons for its issuance.
  • The prescribed format of the GST summons is to be followed as per the image shown above.

2022 Circulars and instructions on the summons

The instructions issued by the CBIC regarding the issuance of summons give due consideration to Circular No. 122/41/2019-GST dated 5th November 2019.

The instructions read as follows-

  • Superintendents may issue summons only after obtaining approval from the officer through prior written permission. The officer, in this case, should not be below the Deputy or Assistant Commissioner rank. Moreover, there must also be a written record of why the summons is being issued.
  • Where prior written permission cannot be obtained, telephonic or oral permission may be obtained and then converted into written form. This must be then intimated to the officer without fail and at the earliest.
  • A file must be maintained by the GST officer who has issued the summons regarding the appearance or non-appearance of the recipient of the summons. This file must be maintained as part of the records. Additionally, a copy of the statement must be placed in the records. 
  • The name of the offender/offenders must be included in the summons issued so that the recipient can decipher what capacity he is being summoned in, whether accused, co-accused or in the capacity of a witness. The name may be excluded where it could detrimentally affect the investigation process.

Taxpayer rights and duties

Taxpayers need to be well aware of their rights and duties if they become recipients of a GST summons. This awareness will ensure their protection against unwanted actions from the officials of the GST office.

A rule that the CBIC issues focused on regulating summons proceedings states that only when the taxpayer is not cooperative will a summons be issued. Moreover, the summons is to be issued against the senior management. It should warrant an appearance during reasonable hours, such as regular business hours.

  • Right of retraction

More often than not, the GST officers tend to pressurise and intimidate the taxpayers, leading them to submit inaccurate information. In such situations, the taxpayer has the right to retract the earlier statement and submit the accurate version as a fresh statement. 

  • Right to remain silent

The constitutional right to remain silent extends to these cases as well. Suppose the taxpayer is uncertain about the answer to a particular question that is framed before him. In that case, he is well within his rights to choose to remain silent.

  • Right to cross-examine

There could be instances where the GST officers may attempt to manipulate the taxpayer summoned by providing references to adverse statements submitted by various third parties. The taxpayer then has the right to cross-examine the third party about the statement’s validity.

  • Right to refer to books of accounts and other documents

When making the statement in front of the GST officer, the taxpayer is free to refer to the books of accounts or any other documents that he would require to refer to provide an accurate statement that goes on the record.

The taxpayer must provide information to the GST officer to the best of his ability and knowledge. Misleading and incorrect statements are not acceptable.

The taxpayer must know the ramifications of the submissions made to the GST officers. The Supreme Court has held that any statement made before the GST officers is admissible as evidence in a court of law. Since GST officers are not classified as police officers, any statement before them constitutes evidence.

FAQs on GST Summons

Who can issue a summons under GST?

The proper officer issues the summons under GST. This proper officer could be either the Commissioner or any person authorised by the Commissioner or the Board to carry out that function.

What type of summons is a GST summons?

A GST summons is an administrative summons. It is normally issued by an administrative or government body and is judicially enforceable.