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GST appeal process to be fully digitised

June 2, 2024 

New e-portal to be ready before all benches of appellate tribunal go on stream.

The Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) will digitilse the entire process of dispute resolution via appeal to the GST Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT), a senior official told FE. A portal is likely to be ready for this purpose before the full operationalisation of all the benches of the tribunal.

FE had reported earlier that the government intends to operationalise all the benches of GST Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT) by January 2025, as it aims to alleviate the significant backlog of pending GST-related disputes at the appellate level, citing a source. The principal bench of GSTAT, in New Delhi, is expected to start functioning from July-August.

As many as 14,227 appeals against disputed tax demands raised by Central GST authorities were pending as of June 2023, a response by the finance ministry to the Parliament had revealed.

On May 6, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman administered the oath to Sanjaya Kumar Mishra, former chief justice of Jharkhand High Court, as the President of the GSTAT.

GSTAT is the appellate authority established under the Central GST Act, 2017, to hear various appeals against the orders of the first appellate authority. It consists of a Principal Bench, in New Delhi, and various state benches. As per the approval of the GST Council, the government has notified 31 state benches at various locations across the country.

Tax experts say the digital portal would result in streamlining of appeals by enabling electronic filing, which would help reduce paperwork as well as administrative burden. It will significantly reduce turnaround time in the overall litigation process, leading to faster disposal of appeals and quicker liquidation of revenue, they say.

“Taxpayers will benefit from the ease of tracking their appeals and accessing past orders, ensuring transparency and efficiency,” said Krishan Arora, Partner, Grant Thornton Bharat. “GSTAT members will have quick access to precedents, facilitating faster and more informed decision-making,” he said.

Sudipta Bhattacharjee, partner, Khaitan & Co, however, said that this appears to be an “ambitious vision” and may require some amount of time to be implemented in entirety.

Currently, the government is appointing judicial members and technical members in the GSTATs. Judicial members within GSTATs are individuals with a background in law and judicial experience, often serving or retired judges. Their role is to provide legal expertise, interpret laws and regulations, and ensure that appeals are adjudicated in accordance with legal principles and precedents.

Technical members, on the other hand, are experts in fields such as taxation, finance, accounting, or economics. They contribute to the tribunal’s deliberations, offering insights into the technical aspects of GST laws, calculations, and industry practices.

Besides digitising GSTATs appeal process, experts suggest that the government may expedite appeals by increasing GSTAT benches and appointing additional qualified members to handle the mounting backlog. “Implementing strict timelines for hearing and resolving appeals may also ensure quicker disposal,” said Arora.

Khaitan’s Bhattacharjee said that the GSTAT benches ought to leverage artificial intelligence tools to bunch together appeals on the basis of legal issues involved, or appeals primarily pertaining to procedural aspects, and plan to tackle all such appeals in a particular jurisdiction at one go – for expedited disposal.

[The Financial Express]

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