CA Gautam Joshi

Online Service Tax Return filling without signature – Is it valid return?

From 01-10-2011 via Notification No. 43/2011, all service tax returns are mandatorily required to file online. An online era will certainly ease whole service tax regime.

However, this new dynamic online era is having its own inherent risks and a threat to both assesses and filed authorities.

ST-3 returns can be directly filled up online on ACES website or an XML schema can be downloaded, filled up, converted in to XML file and uploaded on ACES website. Once the return is being filed in either of the way, ACES displays an acknowledgement of ST-3 return filed e.g. ABCDE1234ABC001_010123A001_ST3_042011. This number is to be quoted for all further communication.

What are the threats then?

  1. There is no clarity whether any physical copy is required to be submitted to field authorities once the ST-3 return has been successfully uploaded on ACES.

On experience it is found that different field authorities ask for different number of copies or few don’t ask for any physical copy at all.

2. ABCDE1234ABC001_010123A001_ST3_042011 acknowledge number generated automatically by ACES website is not a unique number and is easily counterfeited. This could lead to unknown threats.

3. ST-3 return uploaded online does not require any digital signature.

4. Take a case where an assessee has filed ST-3 return online (where no digital signature requires) and has either not submitted a physical copy to field authorities or field authorities has refused to accept a copy of it or has not asked a copy voluntarily.

Question is where returns are uploaded without signature and no physical copies has been submitted to department with signature of authorized signatories what could be a legal validity of ST-3 return uploaded online?

However, in the above case, one may argue that field authorities now track the records and returns of assesses online from the website itself.

In old physical ear of Income Tax, it is accepted law that return filed without signature is not a return at all. Who would be accountable for a return not signed at all? However, the same analogies continue when ITR-V (Acknowledgement of ITR submitted online) has not been posted to Banglore and breach of this could be termed as not filling of return at all.

Procedural aspects have relaxations to assesses in all laws. Once the law has been substantially followed, filling returns (or submitting a physical copy to field authority or posting ITR-V acknowledgement to Banglore) is only a procedural aspect and benefit of doubt has all chances to go to assesses. However, we all know litigations take huge time involvement and costs.

Whereas, precaution is always better then cure.

All assesses filing their ST-3 return online must submit a SIGNED copy to field authorities and avoid further confusions and litigations.

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  1. Ashutosh Bhardwaj Advocate says:

    Mr. CA Gautam Joshi
    Online Service Tax Return filling without signature – Is it valid return?


    kindly read Circular No. 919 / 09 / 2010 – CX

    This circular will clear your doubt, then you will not submit hard copy.

    yours sincerely

  2. vinodkumar parihar says:


    plz tell me in details how to make service tax returns file and income tax return file ITR 1, ITR 2 and ITR4 and service tax return ST-3 copy is already filled up send me my mail id coz not see return file so want to see returns file and than study than i am practicing making return file so plz give me already make it returns file with working notes.
    My mail id: [email protected]
    plz give me feedback and your advice.
    Thanks & Regards

    vk parihar

  3. T.S. Ravi says:

    In the Department circular on E filing it is categorically stated that wherever the returns are submitted through ACES there will not be any requirement to submit signed hard copy separately. I have advised my colleagues not to file hard copies since the introduction E filing through ACES.

  4. Manoj Sharma says:

    If one is required to file a physical copy even after e-filing the Return, it is sheer duplicity of work and negates the very basis for which e-filing has been introduced. The officials look for bribes with every Return and Professionals should not encourage this scenario. In any case, there is the provision of checking online whether a Return has been accepted/rejected. So, in my opinion one should not only protest, but also desist from filing physical copies of e-filed returns except when some specific purpose (viz. scrutiny) needs to be fulfilled. I hope that the authorities which are silent on this particular aspect of e-filing, would issue a clarification/circular addressing this limited point.


    I am filing Service Tax E return for past three years. Definitely the Service tax Dept ask for Hard Copy . and you give the copy whenever they ask for. the main aim of E.terurn to avoid paper accomulated in ST dept

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September 2021