02 August 2021 • 24 min read
Export With Payment Of IGST: GST Refunds Part 2
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Everything you need to know about the export of goods with payment of IGST, how to claim a refund, and common problems you might face during the refund process
In the first of this two-part series about GST refunds on exports, we discussed the process for claiming a refund on exports made via a Letter of Undertaking (LUT) or bond without the payment of Integrated GST (IGST). In this piece, we will discuss the refund process for exports made with payment of IGST. As you might have read in our earlier blog, these are the two ways of exporting goods and services under the GST regime.
To recap, GST (Goods and Services Tax) was rolled out in India on July 1, 2017, as a single indirect tax replacing multiple Central and state taxes such as excise duty, service tax and Value-Added Tax (VAT). It is made up of two components, Central GST (CGST) and State GST (SGST). Integrated IGST, which is the sum total of CGST and SGST, is what exporters pay to send their goods and services out of the country (or to supply to a special economic zone within the country). Once paid, this tax can be claimed as a refund at a later date. This is because exports are treated as “zero-rated supplies” under GST, which means the rate of tax they attract is zero. This tax exemption applies not only to the final product or the final provision of service but to the inputs/input services that go into making this final product or service. Zero-rating exports makes them more competitive in the global market.
In this piece, you can read about:
- How to claim a refund of IGST
- Conditions for claiming a refund
- Important timelines in the refund process
- Common problems in IGST refund process
- Proposed amendments in law affecting IGST refunds
Export with IGST payment: How to apply for a refund
When an exporter sends goods and services out of the country on payment of IGST at the applicable rate, they can claim a refund of the tax under Rule 96 of the CGST Rules, 2017. The refund process is different for goods and services.
1. For export of goods
The exporter need not file a refund application because the shipping bill (or bill of export) is considered one. A shipping bill is an application for customs clearance and one of three mandatory export documents. It is filed on Icegate, Indian Customs’ website. A shipping bill is considered to have been filed as an application for IGST refund when:
- The carrier files an Export General Manifest (EGM) or export report with the number and date of the shipping bill. (An EGM is filed when goods are transported by sea or air while an export report is filed for transportation by land. Both documents are considered proof of shipment and export.)
- The exporter furnishes a valid GST return in form GSTR-3B, where valid return means self-assessed tax has been paid in full for the tax period for which refund is sought. (GSTR-3B is a monthly summary of exports made along with details of GST to be paid, input tax credit claimed, etc. How much tax you pay is decided on the basis of GSTR-3B.)
While these are the two conditions for a refund application, remember that refunds are granted on the basis of two returns – GSTR-3B and GSTR-1. The latter is a monthly or quarterly return with invoice-wise details of exports made.
2. For export of services
The exporter must file a refund application in form GST RFD-01, which is the same form prescribed for making a refund claim for input tax credit on exports made under LUT/bond without payment of IGST. The application takes the same route as one for exports made without payment of tax. Read about it here.
IGST refund process for export of goods
For the export of goods, once a refund application (in the form of a shipping bill) is deemed to have been filed, here’s what happens next:
Step 1: The GST Network (GSTN), as the GST website is called, transmits invoice details contained in GSTR-1 to Icegate electronically. It does so only if:
- Export invoices are submitted in GSTR-1/Table 6A and they have the correct shipping bill number and date and port code
- The return for the corresponding period has been filed in form GSTR-3B
- The IGST liability stated in GSTR-3B is equal to or more than the IGST claimed to have been paid in GSTR-1
Step 2: Icegate matches the GSTR-1 data with the shipping bill details. A mismatch can lead to the refund application being rejected (more on that later)
Step 3: If the details match, Icegate sends an electronic confirmation to GSTN that the goods covered in the invoices have been exported
Step 4: Icegate then processes the refund claim. The exporter will receive an Application Reference Number (ARN) with which they can track the status of their application
Key timelines in the GST refund process
Refund timelines for exports made with payment of IGST are the same as those for exports under LUT/bond without payment of tax:
- The refund must be credited to the exporter’s bank account within 60 days of the date of receipt of the complete application
- If it takes longer than 60 days, interest @ 6% is payable from the end of the 60-day period till the date of refund
- A provisional refund amounting to 90% of the total refund claim might be made within seven days of the date of acknowledgement of the application (exporters who faced prosecution in the five years prior to the refund period are not eligible)
A refund claim must be filed within two years of the relevant date (where relevant date is the date the ship/aircraft leaves the country or the truck crosses a land border; for services export, it is the date payment is received or when invoice is generated, as the case may be)
Who is ineligible for IGST refund?
As per CGST Rules, refund of IGST is not available to an exporter if:
- They have availed of duty drawback on CGST, SGST or IGST. However, they may claim a refund of IGST if they have availed of drawback on basic customs duty
- They obtained Inputs at a concessional rate of 0.1%. In such a case, export cannot be with payment of IGST but must be executed through LUT/bond
- They imported inputs under the Advance Authorisation scheme. Here too, the final product must be exported under LUT/bond and not with payment of IGST. (Advance Authorisation is an export incentive that allows duty-free import of inputs required in making products for export)
Reasons why your IGST refund claim might be stuck
1. Non-transmission of data: As mentioned above, GSTN won’t transmit data to Icegate if the details in forms GSTR-1 and GSTR-3B don’t match. In 2018, Rs 10,000 crore worth of GST refund claims (70% of the total filed) were stuck due to discrepancies in returns data. This issue of problematic refund claims persists till today. Solution: To correct errors in GSTR-1/6A, file Table 9A, an amendment table, in the same form. Form GSTR-3B, once submitted, cannot be amended. But corrections made in form GSTR-1 will auto-populate GSTR-3B in GSTN.
2. Data mismatch on Icegate: If Icegate finds a mismatch between the returns data transmitted by GSTN and the shipping bill details, you will receive one of the following error codes in response to your application:
- SB001 – Invalid SB (shipping bill) details.The shipping bill number in GSTR-1 and in the shipping bill don’t match, probably due to a data entry error in GSTR-1. Solution: Amend GSTR-1 Table 9A.
- SB002 – EGM not filed. Solution: Ask your carrier to file the export manifest/export report immediately.
- SB003 – GSTIN mismatch. Your GSTIN (unique GST identification number) in the shipping bill and returns don’t match. Solution: Amend your shipping bill. But remember, shipping bills cannot be amended after the EGM has been filed.
- SB004 – Record already received. This error code pops up when the GSTN transmits the shipping bill invoice record for a second time and the previously transmitted record has already been validated for IGST refund.
- SB005 – Invalid Invoice Number. The invoice number declared in GSTR-1 and the shipping bill don’t match, due to a data entry error or because the exporter has used two sets of invoices (one for GST and one for exports). Solutions: For a typo, amend GSTR-1 or the shipping bill, wherever the mistake might lie. As mentioned earlier, shipping bills can’t be edited after EGM generation. When two sets of invoices have been used, there is no fix. An SB005 error code is one of the most common mistakes made while claiming a refund.
- SB006 – Gateway EGM not available. If goods are exported from an inland container depot (ICD), the gateway EGM might have been filed manually and not electronically on Icegate as required. Solution: Approach the carrier to have a supplementary EGM filed immediately and ensure it mentions the ICD shipping bill.
When all data points match, Icegate returns an SB000 (Successfully Validated) response code and assigns an IGST scroll number to the eligible shipping bill. You can use this number to check the status of your claim on Icegate on IGST Scroll Sanctioned Status.
3. Scroll generation problems: An eligible shipping bill receives a temporary scroll number first, followed by a final one. The final scroll number is automatically transmitted to the exporter’s bank, after which the refund is credited in their bank account. But problems can arise at the scroll generation stage:
- Shipping bill appears in temporary scroll but not final scroll: There might be two reasons for this – a) the exporter’s bank account details haven’t been validated by the Public Financial Management System (PFMS), the government’s financial management platform for direct benefit transfers, and b) the exporter’s Importer-Exporter Code (IEC) has been suspended by customs. Solutions: Update your bank account details on Icegate by furnishing the proper documents, or wait for your IEC suspension to be lifted, as the case may be.
- Scroll generated is for an amount lower than IGST paid at export: This could be due to a) a data entry error in the shipping bill by the exporter, b) the exporter’s failure to enter the amount of compensation cess paid in the shipping bill along with IGST paid, c) GSTN failure to transmit compensation cess data to Icegate, d) an error by the custom officer while sanctioning the refund. Solution: Submit a Revised Refund Request (RRR) seeking the differential refund amount on Icegate.
4. Short payment of tax
Sometimes, the self-assessed IGST paid by an exporter is less than what is actually due. This might lead to their refund claim getting stuck. A short payment is usually a genuine mistake by the exporter and sometimes a deliberate attempt at tax evasion. There is a provision under GST law for recovery of tax that is short paid whereby the exporter can voluntarily pay the amount due with applicable interest by a specified date, with or without a nominal penalty.
Here is what happens in a genuine case of short payment:
- The exporter receives a show cause notice from a GST officer asking them to pay the tax due with interest. If the exporter pays up within 30 days of the date of notice, no penalty will apply
- If the exporter receives an order of payment along with a show cause notice, they must pay a penalty of 10% of the tax amount or Rs 10,000, whichever is higher (Note: The show cause notice is issued three months before the time limit for order of payment, which is three years from the due date for filing of the annual GST return for the relevant financial year)
- The exporter must pay the amount of tax short paid in form GSTR-3B of the subsequent months, thereby ensuring that the total IGST refund being claimed in the shipping bill and GSTR-1 is fully paid
- For refund amounts up to Rs 10 lakh, the exporter must submit self-certified copies of challans (receipts) as proof of payment to the concerned customs officer at the port of export. For refund amounts above Rs 10 lakh, the exporter must also submit a certificate from a chartered account stating that the short payment has been resolved
Note: The CA certificate facility was introduced by the government in 2018 as an interim measure to prevent blockage of refunds for 2017-2018. It has since been extended and is now valid for all shipping bills filed/to be filed till March 31, 2021. For such bills, CA certificates may be submitted at the port of export till October 30, 2021. Furthermore, this facility is also extended to exporters whose refund claims are stuck not due to short payment of tax but as a result of non-transmission of returns data by GSTN.
Heads up! Proposed Finance Bill amendments
Recently, exporters are worried about two proposed changes in the Finance Bill, which they believe will affect their refunds and business. The proposals are:
- Amendment of Section 16 of the IGST Act withdrawing the facility of export on payment of IGST
- Insertion of a sub-section in Section 113 of the Customs Act, which allows customs to confiscate an exporter’s goods if they make a “wrongful claim” for refund
The Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) has sought a review of these “harsh” changes. According to FIEO president Sharad Kumar Saraf, most exporters prefer to export with payment of IGST because “IGST refund is without any application because shipping bill itself is treated as application. It can be claimed for each shipment and 100% reimbursement is available in one go. The entire process is dealt [with] by customs smoothly”. In comparison, the refund process for exports under LUT/bond has procedural challenges (filing of application, uploading of documents, delayed payments) and transactional costs, he added.
Regarding the proposed change in the Customs Act, Saraf said the term “wrongful claim” can be interpreted in many ways, which would put exporters at a disadvantage and affect India’s exports.
The amendments need to be passed by Parliament and notified by the Finance Ministry in order to come into effect.
As you might have realised by now, most glitches that result in your IGST refund claim getting stuck are due to the entry of incorrect information in shipping bills and GST returns. This underscores the importance of being extra careful while filling these details so that your refund can be processed smoothly without loss of time, effort and money.
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