SKP Tax Alert
23 January 2015 | Volume 7 Issue 19
CBEC issues instructions on issuance of a summons to top management

Background

As per provisions of central excise and service tax, summons can be issued in an inquiry by any Central Excise Officer duly empowered by the Central Government. Such summons can be issued for recording statements or for collecting evidence/documents from any person whose attendance is considered necessary by the officer so empowered.
                                                                                                   
Based on these provisions, several instances were noticed wherein summonses were issued by Department officers to top senior officials of the companies in a routine manner, to call for material evidence/documents and to enforce the recovery of dues which were in dispute. Such instances of frequent issuance of summonses to top management was causing hardship to the assessees and the same was brought to the notice of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) from time to time.
 
Considering the hardships caused to the top management, instructions were ​​issued earlier vide Circular F. No. 208/122/89-CX.6 dated 13 October 1989 and F. No. 137/39/2007-CX-4 dated 26 February 2007, wherein CBEC had clarified that issuance of summons in a harsh and legal language causes unnecessary mental stress and embarrassment and instils fear in the minds of the receiver which also becomes a source of harassment or even unethical practices.
 
Instructions issued by CBEC on 20 January 2014
The CBEC vide instructions F. No. 207/07/2014-CX-6 dated 20 January 2015 has clarified that a summons need not always be issued when a simple letter, politely worded, can also serve the purpose of securing documents relevant to an investigation. It is emphasised that the use of a summons should be made only as a last resort when it is absolutely required.
 
The guidelines to be followed by the excise and service tax authorities are given below in brief:
  • A summons should be issued only after obtaining prior written permission from an officer not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner with the reasons to be recorded in writing
  • In cases where written permission is not possible due to operational reasons, then oral/telephonic permission should be obtained and the same should be reduced to writing at the earliest opportunity
  • The officer issuing a summons in all cases, should submit a report or record a brief of the proceedings in the case file and submit the same to the officer who had authorised the issue of the summons
  • Senior management officials such as CEOs, CFOs and General Managers should be issued a summons only on indications of their involvement in the decision making process leading to loss of government revenue

The above is a reiteration of the instructions issued earlier by CBEC.
SKP's Comments
The latest instructions from CBEC (though reiteration of the earlier instructions) is a welcome move from the assessees perspective to prevent instances of a summons being issued to top management of companies in a haphazard manner. It is expected that strict compliance demanded by CBEC from Officers would lead to interaction between the assessees and revenue officials to proceed in a cooperative rather than an adversarial manner.
 
The industry friendly and pro-assessee approach is a positive sign from the perspective of creating a taxpayer-friendly regime and can be seen as a ​move away from an aggressive revenue approach.
 
In case of any further clarifications, please feel free to write to us at skp.tax@skpgroup.com.

SKP
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This SKP Tax Alert contains general information existing at the time of its preparation only. It is intended as a news update and is not intended to be comprehensive nor to provide specific accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax or other professional advice or opinion or services. This tax alert is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, and it should not be acted on or relied upon or used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional adviser and also refer to the source pronouncement/documents on which this tax alert is based. It is also expressly clarified that this tax alert is not a solicitation or an invitation of any sort whatsoever or a source of advertising from SKP Group or any of its entities to create any adviser-client relationship.

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