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Inspection, search and seizure under GST


Goods and Service Tax (GST) integrated to give a simple and modernized tax flow structure. The objective itself provides legal assistance to section 67 to 72 of the Act that permits the enforcement machinery, i.e. tax officers, to inspect, search, and seize records for proper ascertainment of tax payment and prevent evasion of tax.

According to the law dictionary and as noted in various judicial statements, the word ‘search’ stands for an act of government people to go, inspect or investigate carefully a place, area, person, object, etc. to find something covered or to uncover proof of a crime. The search of a person or vehicle or premises can only be done under the appropriate and valid law authority.

Who can order search under GST?
Depending upon the investigation results or any other reason, the joint commissioner of SGST/CGST or a superior officer can mandate for a search if he has “reasons to believe”-

  • There are goods that are liable for seizure
  • Any documents or books or other things that will be useful during proceedings and hidden somewhere on his own or through a permitted officer can search and seize the goods and documents.

Duration of books/ documents remain with the officer
The officer will keep the books and documents as long as it is compulsory for examination and inquiry. Other books which are not applicable to the issue of notice will be returned within 30 days from the date of notice.

Guidelines during the search operation

  • The officer releasing authorization for search should have a valid and justifiable basis for authorizing a search operation, which shall be duly noted in the search should be carried out only with a proper search approval issued by the competent authority.
  • A person’s premises cannot be checked on the authority of a search warrant issued for some other person’s beliefs. A search warrant has been provided through a mistake in the name of a person who is already dead. The authorized officer should inform the adequate authority and get a new warrant issued in the legal heirs’ names.
  • Two or more independent witnesses who would ideally be honourable occupants of the locality must be present at the search time. If no such occupants are available, the occupants of any other locality should be requested to be witness to the search. PSU employees, bank employees, etc., may be involved as witnesses during sensitive search operations to keep transparency and credibility.
  • The officers searching shall identify themselves by showing their identity cards to the person-in-charge of the premises. Further, before the start of the search, the officers, together with the independent witnesses, shall offer their search. After completing the search, all the officers and the witnesses should again offer themselves for their search.
  • The search authorization performed before the start of the search, and the same shall be appeared to the person in charge of the establishment to be looked up, and his/her signature date and time shall be acquired on the body of search.
  • A statement consisting of a believable account of the search’s events shall undoubtedly be made, and a list of documents/goods/ things retrieved should be prepared. It should be assured that the time and date of the beginning of the search and the result of the search must specify in the statement. The fact of offering a personal search of the officers and witnesses before inception and after the search’s conclusion must be documented in the statement.
  • While searching, the officers must be empathetic towards the assessee. There shall be taken into reflection at all times, social and religious beliefs of persons under search and of all the persons present. Particular notice should be given to the elderly, women, and children present on the basis under search. Children should be permitted to go to school after investigating their bags. A woman acquiring any premises to be looked up has the right to depart before the search party enters.
  • The person from whose remand any documents are captured may be allowed to make copies thereof for which he/she may be granted a suitable time and place to take such copies or extract accordingly. However, suppose it is felt that providing such copies or extracts consequently unfairly influence the investigation. In that case, the officer may not provide such copies. If such appeal for taking documents is made during search, the same may be incorporated in the statement, suggesting a place and time to make such copies.
  • Each page of the statement and annexures must be signed by the officerauthorized to search the premises. A copy of the statement should be given to the person-in-charge of the beliefs searched; acknowledgements in this consider may be taken. If the person in charge refuses to sign the statement, the same may be pasted in a prominent place in the witnesses’ presence.
  • In case any statement recorded during the search, each page of that statement must be signed by the person whose information is being recorded.
  • After the search is over, the search sanctions duly implemented should be returned to the officer who had issued the said search sanctioned with the search outcome report.

Arrest under GST
If the commissioner believes a person has committed an offence under section 132, the offender can be arrested under GST.

 At AJSH, we assist our clients in dealing with various GST matters (GST registration, GST advisory, GST assessments, filing of GST returns, claiming refund & GST audits) by providing them adequate support and guidance from our end. If you have any questions or would like to know more about search operations under GST, kindly contact us.


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