In our previous blog, we started to explore the various provisions in place which enable the officers to take action against tax evasion, namely – inspection, search, seizure and arrest. To start with, we understood all about inspection and search under GST, and all the rules in place for the same. In this blog, we will go through the provisions of seizure under GST.

Seizure under GST

The term “Seizure” has not been specifically defined under GST. In legal terms, seizure under GST implies the act of taking over something or someone by force through a legal process, such as, the seizure of evidence found at the scene of a crime. It generally means – taking possession forcibly against the wishes of the owner.

Difference between Detention and Seizure under GST

In this context, most taxable persons may be confused about the difference between detention and seizure under GST. Detention is basically the act of not allowing the owner any access to the seized goods under GST, by means of a legal order or notice. In case of a detention, the ownership and possession of goods still lie with the owner, and it is issued, only when it is suspected that the goods are liable for confiscation.

However, seizure is actually taking over or possessing the goods by the department, although the ownership stays with the owner. A seizure under GST can be made only after inquiry or investigation that the goods are liable to confiscation.

Procedure for Seizure under GST

The following are the provisions pertaining to seizure of goods under GST:

  • The proper officer will give an order of seizure of goods under GST in Form GST INS-02
  • The officer authorized to search will have the power to seal the door of the premises. He can also break open the door of any premises, in case access is denied. He can also break open any cupboard or box in which goods, books, documents etc. are suspected to be concealed
  • However, if it is not practical to seize the goods, the proper officer will order the owner not to remove these goods without the prior permission of the officer. The officer will issue an order of prohibition in Form GST INS-03
  • The officer will keep the books and documents as long as it is necessary for examination and inquiry
  • Other books which are not relevant to the issue of notice will be returned within 30 days from the date of the notice
  • The seized goods under GST can be released on a provisional basis against a bond, for the value of the goods in Form GST INS-04. The owner must also furnish a security in the form of a bank guarantee for the amount due i.e. the applicable tax, interest and penalty payable
  • If the owner fails to produce the provisionally released goods at the appointed date and place, then the security will be encashed and adjusted against the amount due
  • Provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure will apply to search and seizure of goods in GST

Post-Seizure Procedures

  • Goods – Post the seizure in GST, all the goods which have been taken into custody will be properly listed by an officer. The goods will then be divided into hazardous and non-hazardous, and also into perishable and non-perishable. The government can issue a list of hazardous or perishable goods which can be disposed as soon as they are seized. Also, post the seizure in GST, a notice is to be issued by the department. If the notice is not issued within 6 months, from the date of seizure of goods in GST, they will need to be returned. This time limit is extendable by 6 more months.
  • Documents – In case the person who is the owner of the documents, wants to make copies, he can do so in presence of the officer.

Post inspection, search and seizure under GST, if the Commissioner believes that a person has committed an offence under the requisite section of the GST Act, the concerned person can be arrested. In our next blog, we will understand the specific provisions laid down for Arrest under GST.

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