Virtual hearing on GST, excise related now allowed on Whatsapp

Virtual hearing of all demand notices pertaining to indirect taxes such as goods and services tax (GST) can now be done via Whatsapp, said Thane Tax Zone citing a notice Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).

whatsappThe decision has been taken due to the ongoing crisis because of Covid 19, and the mandatory guidelines from centre on maintaining social distancing norms.

“Keeping in view the situation arising due to Covid 19, it has been decided to conduct personal hearing in respect of all demand notices through video conferencing,” the notice dated May 18, said.

“Whatsapp video conferencing has been considered as on such suitable mode for video conferencing because it also has ‘end to end encryption’ and has a huge reach amongst common people,” the notice added.

This facility will remain active till any other more secure or easier mode is put in place, said Thane Tax Zone authority said in the letter issued for general information.

Whatsapp has over 400 million users in India, way higher of any other messaging app in the country, including Telegram which recently increased its share in the Indian market over last couple of years.

The directions are as per the instructions from Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) issued in April, permitting field offices for conducting hearings in customs, excise and service tax appeal cases via video conference with the consent of the appellant or respondent.

The state GST authority has stated that all the parties must give their agreement for virtual hearing via Whatsapp Video Conferencing and provide Whatsapp number for the same. Followed by this, the authority will notify the date and time of the hearing, which will have to be confirmed by the noticees a day in advance, while a noticee will have to confirm his or her presence for the hearing 15 minutes prior to the given date and time, via text by the given Whatsapp Number.

Whatsapp communication will also be used by the authorities for sending out personal hearing memos in PDF form after the hearings conclude. These will have to be signed by the noticee or noticees concerned and sent back to the authority on the same Whatsapp number, within 15 minutes of receipt.

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