E-way Bill: Tax authorities specify procedure for interception of goods

Tax authorities have asked field officers to follow standard procedure for interception of conveyances to inspect goods, and their confiscation under the e-way bill rules. 

The directions issued on Friday came 13 days after the e-way bill roll-out for interstate movement of goods and ahead of its introduction for intrastate movement from April 15 in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Kerala. 

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has laid out a detailed procedure for time-bound uploading of reports/forms by revenue authorities, closure of cases where goods have been detained, and instructions to release goods where there are no prima facie irregularities. 

The CBIC in a circular said that will “ensure uniformity” in the procedure for interception, inspection, detention, seizure and release of goods and conveyances. 

According to the circular, jurisdictional commissioners shall designate an officer to conduct the interception and inspection of conveyance and goods, in their respective jurisdictions. 

It said the officer may intercept any conveyance for verification of documents and/or inspection of goods. “On being intercepted, the person in charge of the conveyance shall produce the documents related to the goods and conveyance. The officer shall verify such documents and where, prima facie, no discrepancies are found, the conveyance shall be allowed to move further,” the circular added. An e-way bill in the form of a printout, SMS, or written on invoice would be considered valid. 

In case of discrepancy in documents or if the officer intends to inspect, a statement of the person in charge of the conveyance shall be recorded. An order, requiring the person in charge of conveyance to station conveyance at the place mentioned in such order and allow inspection of goods, may be issued. However, within 24 hours of such order, the officer is required to prepare a report and upload the same on the goods and services tax portal, the circular said. The inspection proceedings shall in general be completed within three working days from date of issue of order, after which a report of inspection of conveyance and goods shall be made. The final report of inspection shall be uploaded on the GST portal within three days of such physical verification, the circular added.

The goods and conveyance shall be released only when the owner or a person so authorised pays the tax and penalty. The goods and conveyance can also be released on furnishing of a bond along with security in form of a bank guarantee equal to total amount payable. Where tax and penalty is not paid within seven days from the date of issue of detention order, a notice can be served proposing confiscation of goods and conveyance and imposition of penalty. Further, where the officer is of the view that the movement of goods is being effected to evade payment of tax, the officer may directly issue a notice for confiscation of the goods and conveyance, the circular said.

PwC Partner and Leader Indirect Tax Pratik Jain said, “While it has been clarified that e-way bill number available either in the form of a printout, or SMS or even written on invoice shall be considered as valid, the acceptability of same by officers at ground level needs to be seen.” 

EY India Tax Partner Abhishek Jain said it is expected that e-way bill inspections may not entail unwarranted hardships to businesses. 

AMRG & Associates Partner Rajat Mohan said the circular should percolate down the chain, thereby streamlining detentions and seizures and pushing out an informal way of dealing things on the road.