Heavy pendency of service tax refund / rebate claims of exporters with service tax department raises a serious question on government’s promise of ease of doing business in India. Where on one side Indian Industry is facing huge demands in Income Tax by Transfer Pricing adjustments, on other side delay in indirect taxes refunds is a hit of double edge sword. Not only it affects the liquidity of the exporters, but their productivity and morale also goes down. Also it raises the doubt on integrity and competency of service tax department. Moreover it will also impact on the successful implementation of most awaited fiscal reform of India Goods and Service Tax Act (GST).
On the principle of taxes cannot be on export, government of India grant rebate / refund of service tax paid on input taxable services which are used for providing any taxable services. Idea behind the law is to incentivised exporter by return back the money paid on input taxes on input services/inputs for exporting services. But the ground reality is too much differing from the promises and intention of the government.
Extract of CAG report on pendency of Service Tax Refund reflects the actual position as under: –
Age-wise pendency of Service Tax refund cases
(Rs. in crore)
|Year||Outstanding Balance plus claims received||Total number of refund claims pending as on 31 March||Refunds Claim Pending for|
|Less than one year||Over One Year|
(Source: Figures furnished by the Ministry)
CAG Comments – It is observed that though total number of refund claims pending have been increased by 248 in FY 14 over FY 13 but the amount involved have reduced drastically by Rs. 37,387 crore which needs to be examined.
Let us understand the provisions for refund / rebate of service tax, relevant notifications, time limits and case laws.
Rule 6A of Service Tax Rules, 1994 is the governing rule to determine whether a particular service is export or not. Rule 6A stipulates six conditions, all the six conditions to be fulfilled cumulatively for service provided or agreed to be provided shall be treated as an export of service –
|Conditions of Rule 6A of Service Tax Rules,1994||Description|
|the provider of service is located in the taxable territory,||To determine the location of service provider / receiver, place where it is registered under service tax laws is treated as its location. If he is not registered, than location of its business establishment, fixed establishment, place of residence (whichever is available) is treated as its location.|
|the recipient of service is located outside India,|
|the service is not a service specified in the section 66D of the Act,||Service must not be listed in negative list of services.
|the place of provision of the service is outside India,||There are 14 rules in Place of Provision Rules, 2012 to determine the place of provision of any service. There are specific rules to determine place of provision of services in relation to immovable property, transportation, value addition service on board of conveyance, events/conferences/seminars, performance based services, specified services etc. Also there is default rule to determine the place of provision of residuary services. ( Services for which there is no specific rule is known as ‘residuary services’)
|the payment for such service has been received by the provider of service in convertible foreign exchange; and||Payment for services has been received in convertible foreign exchange. There may be the case where the foreign customer has paid the consideration in Indian Rupees instead of foreign currency and bank has issued Foreign Inward Remittance Certificate. Than in that case also export condition is deemed to be fulfilled as held by honourable CESTAT Mumbai in the case of Sun-Area Real Estate Private Limited Vs. Commissioner of Service Tax, Mumbai-I [2015-TIOL-956-CESTAT-MUM]. Reliance has been placed on FEMA Notifications 9/2000-RB and FEMA 14/2000-RB dated May 3, 2000 issued by RBI under Foreign Exchange Management (Realisation, Repatriation and surrender of Foreign Exchange) Regulations, 2000.|
|The provider of service and recipient of service are not merely establishments of a distinct person in accordance with the Explanation 3(b) to Section 65B(44) of the Act.||Last condition for export of services is that service transaction between establishments of same person doesn’t qualify export. It should be between the establishments of separate person.
Thus, if Indian Branch of a foreign company provides services to the foreign company, then it cannot be regarded as export (although such branch and head office are regarded as deemed separate persons).
However it is pertinent to note that if the service provider located outside India and Service receiver is in taxable territory and these are the establishment of same person, than it is treated as import of service and service tax is to be paid on it. However in vice versa situation, the said transaction is not an export of services.
Notification for refund / rebate of service tax paid on input services used in export of services.
Once it is determined that the particular service is exported in terms of Rule 6A of Service Tax Rules,1994, next is to get the rebate / refund of Service Tax taken on input services used in export of services.
In terms of Rule 6A(2) of Service Tax Rules,1994, to give benefit of rebate of service tax paid on input services, government of India has issued Notification 39/2012 – ST dated 20th June, 2012 and in terms of Rule 5 of CENVAT credit rules, 2004 to refund unutilised Cenvat Credit availed in export of service government of India has issued Notification 27/2012 – CE (N.T.) dated 18th June, 2012.
Detailed comparison of two notifications is as given below: –
Points of Comparison
|Provisions of Notification||Comparison Points|
|Notification 27/2012 – CE (N.T.) dated 18th June, 2012||Notification 39/2012 – ST dated 20th June, 2012
|Notification 27/2012 – CE (N.T.) dated 18th June, 2012
|Notification 39/2012 – ST dated 20th June, 2012
|Governing Provision||Rule 5 of Cenvat Credit Rules, 2005.
|Rule 6A (2) of Service Tax Rules, 1994. (Powers conferred by Section 93 A of the Finance Act,1994)
|It’s for refund of unutilized Cenvat Credit in relation to export of services||It grants rebate of service tax paid on input services used in export of services|
|Rebate V/S Refund||Refund means paying back money which is excess paid or not required to paid||Rebate means incentive or discount.||Refund is natural right and returned to that person who had paid it.||Rebate is a not a natural right. It pays back in form of incentive or discount.|
|Declaration||No Prior Declaration required to be filed
|Prior Declaration regarding value, description and quantity of Input services & output service have to be filed before the date of export of services. (Procedural Requirement)||It is less procedural in nature and more practical in nature.||Filing of prior declaration is merely a procedural requirement, but its impact is very hard. Non filing / delay filing can lead to rejection of claim.|
|Form of Rebate / Refund Claim||Refund claim to filed in Form A within the time limits defined in Section 11B of Central Excise Act,1944||Rebate claim is to be filed in Form ASTR -2 within the time limits defined in Section 11B of Central Excise Act,1944||Form A is elaborative one and almost covers every aspect to be examined for sanctioning of refund claim.||ASTR-2 form is simpler one but cannot depict the whole picture.|
|Cenvat Credit||Refund of Cenvat Credit availed on Input Services used for providing Output Services exported. (Refund allowed only if it is shown as Cenvat Credit in Service Tax Return.)||No Cenvat Credit has been availed on Input and Input services on which rebate claim has been claimed (Means No refund is allowed if Cenvat Credit is shown in Service Tax Return)||More Alertness Required. Merely missing an entry creates hurdles in sanctioning of refund.||Heavy Record maintenance and reconciliations required to establish the input services are used in export of services|
|Debit the Refund Amount||Amount that is claimed as refund under rule 5 of the said rules is require be debited by the claimant from his CENVAT credit account at the time of making the claim
|No any amount need to be debited in books of accounts or Service Tax Return.||Claim amount should be debited on or before in books of accounts from Cenvat Credit Account and should also be reflected in respective period service tax return. For good accounting practice it is advisable to transfer the debited amount in a separate account head named as “Service Tax Refund Account”||It requires strong accounting procedures and strong documentation|
|Auditor’s Certificate||Auditor’s Certificate is required in the Annexure A-I||Auditor’s Certificate is not required
|Extra Cost to be incurred to get the certificate||Self certification of documents will suffice the purpose.|
|Periodicity of Rebate Claims||Quarterly||Not defined in the notification.||No Choice||Filing can be Monthly, Quarterly etc.|
|Correlation of input services to export of services is required.||Not Required||Required||There is specified formula. Rare chances of rejection.||More Chances of rejection because of one to One correlation of Input Services with Export of Services|
|Refund Formula||There is simpler formula to calculate the refund amount.||There is no such formula in the said notification.||Refund amount is easy to calculate.||One to One correlation is to be established|
|Payment Proof||Bank Realisation Certificate (BRC)||FIRC / BRC / Foreign Cheques / NEFT Payments||One of the procedures of the notification to produce BRC as proof of export proceeds.||No Such requirement. Any document evidencing the convertible the payment has been received in convertible foreign exchange suffices the purpose.|
1. Whether Point of Taxation Rules applies to Notification 39/2012?
Notification 39/2012 is silent about Point of Taxation Rules, 2011.
2. Filing of Prior declaration in Notification 39/2012 – Filing of prior declaration is a procedural requirement.
Features of prior declaration
3. What can be the payment of proof of export remittance? – Foreign Inward Remittance Certificate (FIRC) or Bank Realization Certificate (BRC)?
Notification 27/2012-CE (N.T.) asked for produce BRC as a proof of realization of export proceeds. However in the judgment of Apotex Research Pvt Ltd & Ors. (2014-TIOL-1836-CESTAT-BANG), it has been pronounced that exporter have to established that consideration in foreign currency has been received in respect of invoices raised by him. Its undue obligation on exporter to produce BRC, however FIRC can suffice the purpose.
4. Refund of Capital Goods, Inputs used in provision of service is not available to Service Provider.
5. Interpretation of word ‘used in’ in the notification 39/2012-ST dated 20.06.2012. There is no test / formula to calculate rebate in said notification. Strict interpretation of the word ‘used in’ leads to one to one correlation between input services and output services is a big worry for exporter.
Time-Limit to Claim Refunds
As per Section 83 of the Finance Act, 1994, some provisions of Central Excise Act, 1944 applies mutatis mutandis in service tax.
Section 11B of the Central Excise Act, 1944 stipulates the time limit for claiming refund claims. As per the section time-limit for claiming rebate / refund is one year from date of export.
CESTAT Bengaluru in the case of Apotex Research Private Limited & Ors (2014-TIOL-1836-CESTAT-BANG) pronounced that the relevant date should be the date on which the consideration has been received where the claimant is service provider and consideration paid where the claimant is service receiver.
Following are the view points, court decisions and interpretations for considering relevant date / filing claim: –
It is advisable to file the claim within nine from the end of the quarter in which the export remittances received. Let us understand with an example that the January to March quarter refund claim to be filed on or before 31st December (from beginning of quarter) to avoid complications and technicalities.
Whether registration with Service Tax Department is require to claim rebate / refund of Service Tax?
Section 69 of the Finance Act, 1994 stipulates when a person is liable to take registration.
Every person liable to pay the service tax under
Within such time and in such manner and in such form as may be prescribed, make an application for registration.
Rule 4(1) of the Service Tax Rules, 1994 prescribe the time limit of 30 days from the date on which the service tax under section 66 of the Finance Act, 1994 for make an application to the concerned Superintendent of Service Tax for registration.
In case of export of services, there is no requirement to pay the service tax and hence the law does not mandate to take registration compulsorily.
In numerous court cases, it has been decided registration is not a bar to avail the export benefits. Karnataka High Court held in the case of mPortal India Wireless Solutions (P.) Ltd vs. Commissioner of Service Tax  16 taxmann.com 353 that there is no statutory provision which prescribed that registration is mandatory and that if such a registration is not made the assessee is not entitled to the benefit of refund
In below cases, courts have pronounced that registration is not the criteria for claiming refund / rebate other Favourable Cases
1. Textech International (P.) Ltd. Commissioner of Service Tax, Chennai  14 taxmann.com 32 (Chennai – CESTAT)
2. Delhi CESTAT in Wipro BPO Solutions Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Service Tax  17 taxmann.com 4
3. Commissioner of Service Tax, Chennai vs. Varizon Data Services (I) (P.) Ltd.  28 taxmann.com 136 (Chennai – CESTAT)
4. Metric Solution (P.) Ltd. vs Commissioner of Central Excise, Ahmadabad  31 taxmann.com 344 (Ahmadabad – CESTAT)
Interest on delayed issuance of service tax refund
As per Section 11BB of the Central Excise Act (applicable to Service Tax by section 83 of the Finance Act 1994 (as amended)), an interest at rate band between 5% to 30% is to be paid in case the refund is not issued within three months of filing of refund application from the date of filing refund application till the date of refund of service tax.
It is advisable to apply for interest on delayed refunds to make the officer’s accountable for it.
Ground Realities of Refunds / Rebates under Service Tax
Ambiguity in Service Tax on Exports
POSITION IN GOODS AND SERVICE TAX
In the first discussion paper on Goods and Service Tax issued by Empowered Committee of State Finance minister, Para 3.7 stipulates that exports would be the zero rated and similar benefits may be given to Special Economic Zones as well.
Proposed model of GST in India is dual model GST where both centre and state have power to levy taxes on goods and services. Presently only centre have power to levy service tax on services. But in GST regime, state government will also have the power to levy service tax on service tax. It means that there will be two taxes on services – Central taxes and State taxes.
It is pertinent to note that in GST era, exporter might have to file separate claims to central government for refund / rebate of taxes paid to central government and to state government for refund/rebate of taxes paid to state government.
Expectations from GST Regime
1. Online filing of refund/rebate filing, follow-up and sanction mechanism.
2. Strict provisions for department to adhere the time Limit to issue refund/rebate.
3. Mandatory interest to be paid by department on delay in sanctioning refunds/ rebates.
4. Clarity on issues of time-limit of filing claims, proof of export remittance, nexus theory etc.
5. Impractical conditions like prior declaration should not be there.
6. Helpdesk or special helpline number for exporters.
7. Simpler formulas to calculate refund/rebates.
1. Central Excise Act, 1944
2. Service Tax Rules,1994
3. Finance Act, 1994
4. First Discussion paper on Goods and Service Tax issued by Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers
7. Cenvat Credit Rules,1994
(About the Author– Gaurav Arya is Chartered Accountant of May,2011 attempt. He is having 4 years of post qualification experience. His core area of expertise is service tax. Presently he is working with reputed CA firm of Delhi. He is actively engaged in analysis & interpretation of provisions under the Service Tax statute, Customs Act, CENVAT Credit Rules, provisions pertaining to VAT, Excise for various multinationals in Information Technology, BPO/KPO, Publishers, Service, Logistics, etc.)