Summons Under GST- Rights and Duties of a Taxpayer

GST officers have the authority to summon any taxpayer whose presence is required. In several cases, tax authorities have summoned businesses, employees, and key management personnel to appear before GST officials. The individual who receives the summons must appear before the GST authorities. This article aims to inform readers about their GST summons duties and rights.

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    What is a summons under GST?

    A summons is an order issued by a court or a government administrative body requiring any individual to appear in person in court or at the relevant office. Section 70 of the CGST Act 2017 empowers GST officials to summon anyone to testify or present documents during an investigation. Failure to appear before the officer in question may result in a fine.

    Who can issue a summons?

    You must determine who issued the summons under GST. Audit authorities are not permitted to issue summons under GST. The Directorate General of GST Intelligence exercises this function. The DGGI is the highest-ranking investigative agency in charge of investigating GST violations.

    Types of Summons 

    Civil summons 

    A civil summons is a court order compelling an individual or business to appear before a judge and reply to a plea submission. A court summons is categorised more specifically as a civil summons. With this kind of summons, the defendant is informed that a civil action has been brought against them, and they must appear in court to defend themselves against the claims. A civil action often entails a lawsuit for financial compensation for loss or harm and an injunction to oblige someone to do something.

    Here are some examples of civil lawsuits: 

    1. Lawsuits for breach of contract 

    2. Suspension

    3. Claim the money you own 

    4. Infringement on intellectual property

    Criminal summons 

    A criminal summons is the kind of judicial summons that notifies someone that they must appear in criminal court. A criminal court may issue different types of warrants depending on your jurisdiction. Various summons is issued in the criminal proceeding framework; some are issued by the police, while the prosecutor issues others.

    For example-  

    1. A citation
    2. Traffic summons
    3. Notice to appear

    Administrative summons 

    An administrative summons is a judicial summons issued by an administrative body legally authorised to carry out a specific investigation or legal matter. For example, each jurisdiction will have a tax authority handling all tax matters. The tax authority might have the power to summon you to appear and provide information about your taxes.

    Administrative summons can be issued by a variety of administrative courts, including:

    1. Tax Court 
    2. Immigration court 
    3. Labour court
    4. Professional code

    Duties of a taxpayer

    Summons are as important under GST as court processes are under the IPC. It will help if you exercise caution when dealing with tax officials. In such cases, tax officers may request the disclosure of documents and take statements from employees, executives, or key management personnel.

    Unlike comments made in front of police officers, statements made in front of GST officials can be used as evidence against the taxpayer. The Supreme Court ruled in one case that because customs officials are not police officers, any comment made in their presence can be used as evidence. Similarly, the Telangana High Court ruled that any testimony before them is admissible because GST officers are not police officers.
     

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    Rights of a taxpayer

    Taxpayers must be aware of their rights to avoid mistreatment by GST officials. This section explains how taxpayers can defend themselves against GST summonses. The CBIC issued detailed regulations to govern summons proceedings, including one stating that summons should only be used as one last-ditch effort if the taxpayer refuses to cooperate and should not be required to appear at odd hours. Furthermore, the summons should not contain aggressive language that may worry the taxpayer. It ought to be self-explanatory. Aside from that, as a taxpayer, you should be aware of several other essential rights.

    Right to retract a statement 

    Officials frequently apply undue pressure on taxpayers, making them fearful and forcing them to provide inaccurate information. In such cases, taxpayers can replace the incorrect statement with the correct one. This safeguard protects taxpayers from tax authorities taking action against them due to inaccurate submissions.

    Right to remain silent 

    When a taxpayer is uncertain about a question, they can remain silent. It is a legal right granted to taxpayers. The High and Supreme Courts have determined that silence is not criminal. Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the fundamental right against self-incrimination. It states that no one charged with a crime shall be required to testify against themselves. Furthermore, Section 161 of the CrPC states that no one is obligated to answer any question that could lead to a criminal charge.

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    Right to cross-examine 

    Tax authorities may sometimes attempt to manipulate the summoned person by referring to an adverse statement made by a third party, which could be his colleague, a vendor/dealer of the company, or anyone else. In such a case, the taxpayer is not required to concede to such statements made by a third party and may exercise his right to cross-examine the other person to verify his negative comments.

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