The Service Tax Rules, 1994 (‘the Service Tax Rules’) were amended vide Notification No. 5/2015 – ST dated March 1, 2015 to insert New Rule 4C after Rule 4B thereof. In terms of Rule 4C of the Service Tax Rules, provision for issuing digitally signed invoices, bill or challan has been added along with the option of maintaining of records in electronic form and their authentication by means of digital signatures effective from March 1, 2015.
Corresponding changes were also made in Rule 5 of the Service Tax Rules. Further similar provisions were also incorporated under Rule 10 and 11 of the Central Excise Rules, 2002 vide Notification No. 8/2015 – CE(NT) dated March 1, 2015.
However, it was further provided that the conditions and procedure in this regard shall be specified by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (“CBEC” or “the Board”).
CBEC specifies conditions, safeguards and procedures:
The CBEC vide Notification No. 18/2015-CE (NT) dated July 6, 2015 has now specified the conditions, safeguards and procedures for issue of invoices, preserving records in electronic form, authentication of records and invoices by digital signatures, summarised here under for easy digest:
- Use of only Class 2 or Class 3 Digital Signature Certificate duly issued by the Certifying Authority in India;
- Intimating specified details like name, e-mail id etc., of the person authorised, name of the Certifying Authority etc., to the jurisdictional Deputy Commissioner or Assistant Commissioner of Central Excise, at least 15 days in advance;
- Submitting complete details afresh in case of any change in the details already submitted within 15 days of such change;
- Maintaining separate electronic records for each factory or each Service Tax Registration;
- Producing the specified records in electronic form and invoices through e-mail or on a specified storage device in an electronically readable format for verification, on request by the Central Excise Officer;
- The Central Excise Officer, during an enquiry, investigation or audit, in accordance with the provisions of Section 14 of the Central Excise Act, 1944 (as made applicable to Service Tax by virtue of Section 83 of the Finance Act, 1994) may direct an assessee to furnish printouts of the records in electronic form and invoices and may resume printouts of such records and invoices after verification and after signing of print outs by the assessee, if so requested;
- Preservation of appropriate back up of records in electronic form for a period of 5 years.