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GST appellate tribunals likely to be set up by December 2023

November 15, 2022

The appellate body will be headed by a judge from the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of a high court.

After years of delay, the Centre is aiming to set up the GST Appellate Tribunals (GSTATs) across the country by December next year with the principal Bench in New Delhi to quickly resolve disputes relating to the key indirect tax, and further improve ease of doing business and boost tax collections.

Even five years after the GST rollout, the country is still awaiting an appellate body to resolve tax disputes. On August 18, the group of ministers (GoM) on tribunals convened by Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala finalised that GSTAT will be set up with a principal Bench in New Delhi and similar Benches at the state level.

The appellate body will be headed by a judge from the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of a high court. According to sources, each of these Benches will consist of a judicial officer equivalent to a high court judge and a senior tax officer from either the Centre or state as a technical member. A state can host a maximum of five Benches and the state governments would be given certain relaxation on the nomination of technical members, meeting a key demand of states, sources said.

“If the GST Council takes a decision now (likely next month), we can incorporate changes in the CGST Act through the Finance Bill 2023 in the upcoming Budget. It could take about nine months to one year to set up the tribunals,” a senior official told FE.

The process of the first appeal under the GST regime happens through individual officers but the second appeal against the orders of the first appellate authorities under central as well as state tax administration lies with the GSTAT. Therefore, this is the first forum at which the adjudication process converges under all GST laws and all tax administrations. Taxpayers aggrieved by the orders passed by appellate/revisional authority, can approach the GSTAT instead of approaching the respective high courts, thereby reducing their caseload.

Resolving disputes and passing quick orders could help the revenue authorities realise higher tax revenues locked in litigations. It will also reduce undue hardship on taxpayers.

A four-member search and selection committee, headed by either the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or his representative judge from the SC, will be tasked with the appointment of members to the Benches. It will also consist of the president of the GSTAT, a union government secretary and a state chief secretary. The chairperson will have a casting vote.

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The CGST Act will be modified to provide for all Benches of the same kind with a Principal Bench in New Delhi where the tribunal’s president will sit. The president will distribute the business or transfer cases among Benches. According to the eligibility criteria, the technical member from the Centre will be an Indian Revenue Service officer with 25 years of experience while the officer from the state is also required to have 25 years of experience, which states can reduce if no suitable person is found.

[The Financial Express]

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