All laws, whether taxation or otherwise, grant certain powers to officers which enable the officers to execute the law in the right spirit.
Similarly, the GST law also grants certain powers to GST officers. In this blog, we shall discuss the powers of GST officers. each taxpayer should be aware about the powers of a GST officer as it saves the taxpayer from any misguided inquiry and assessment. Further, it also aids in approaching the right officer for the right request.
Powers of GST officers
- Section 5 of the CGST Act, 2017, provides for powers of GST officers. Section 5 states that each officer may exercise the powers conferred upon him by the act, subject to the conditions and limitations that the board may impose. The said section also permits a Commissioner to delegate his powers to any other officer who is subordinate to him.
- Power to implement the law in the country in the right spirit and compliance with the provision of the law.
- Power of inspection: An officer not below the rank of Joint Commissioner may authorize any other proper officer to inspect any place of business of the taxable person or the transporter’s place of business, or owner or operator of warehouse or any other place.
- Power to search and seize: An officer not below the rank of Joint Commissioner may be pursuant to an inspection carried out if he believes that any goods, documents, information which are relevant for the proceedings are hidden at any place, may authorize any other proper officer or he may conduct search and seize such goods, documents or information.
- Power to arrest: Where a commissioner believes that a taxpayer has committed any offences specified under the Act, he may order any other proper officer to arrest such person. The arrested person is required to be informed about the grounds of his arrest and be produced before a magistrate within twenty-four hours.
- Power to summon persons to give evidence and produce documents: The proper officer has the power to summon any person who he considers necessary, in order to produce evidence or a document or any other information as required.
- Power to access business premises: A proper officer who is authorized under this act shall have the power to access the place of business of a taxpayer to inspect books of accounts, documents, computers, software etc., for the purpose of carrying out inspection, search, scrutiny and other verifications.
- Revisional powers: A revisional authority may suo moto or basis the information received by him or on the request received by him from the Commissioner, call for and examine the records of any proceedings if he believes that any order passed by another subordinate officer under this act is erroneous in so far as it is prejudicial to the interest of the revenue, is illegal, or improper. The revisional authority may pass an order of inquiry or modify the previous order after giving an opportunity of being heard to the taxpayer.
- Power to impose penalty: In case a proper officer believes that a person is liable to a penalty which has not been covered by Section 62, 63, 64, 73, 74, 129, 130, he may issue an order levying penalty on such person after giving him an opportunity of being heard.
- Power to collect statistics: If the Commissioner believes that it is necessary so to do, may direct officers to collect statistics related to any matter in connection with this act. The said officer may call upon the concerned persons to furnish the information related to GST law.
- Power to collect samples: The Commissioner or any other officer authorised by him take sample of goods from the possession of any taxable person, if it is necessary. The officer must provide a receipt of the sample so taken to the taxable person.
While the above are the key powers which have been bestowed upon the GST officers, there are other powers as well which are conferred on the proper officers. However, it is of utmost importance that the officers use these powers judiciously. Very often it is observed that the proper officers go beyond their powers and which causes hardships to taxpayers. Although there are numerous judicial precedents wherein the courts have reprimanded tax authorities for exploiting their powers, the instances of abuse of power have not gone down in entirety. The impact of such abuse could prove to be fatal for the business of the taxpayer; in some cases, the viability of the business may get affected. As it is often said that with great power comes great responsibility, the officers need to responsibly use the powers conferred upon them. For more such information, check our previous blogs.