Virtual hearing of all demand notices relating to indirect taxes including goods and services tax (GST) can be done through Whatsapp, authorities in Thane tax zone said a notice while issuing standard procedure for conducting the hearings.
The decision has been taken due to situation arising from Covid 19, and the mandatory guidelines from government on maintaining social distancing norms.
“Keeping in view the situation arising due to Covid 19, it has been decided to conduct personal hearing in respect of all demand notices through video conferencing,” the notice dated May 18, said
“Whatsapp video conferencing has been considered as on such suitable mode for video conferencing because it also has ‘end to end encryption’ and has a huge reach amongst common people,” the notice added.
The facility will remain in place till any other more secure or easier mode is established, the authority said in the letter issued for general information. Whatsapp has more than 400 million users in India, far ahead of any other messaging app in the country, including Telegram which has increased its share in the Indian market over last couple of years.
The directions follow instructions from Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) issued in April, allowing field offices to conduct hearings in customs, excise and service tax appeal cases via video conference with the consent of the appellant or respondent.
Issuing standard measures, the state GST authority has said that all the parties must agree for virtual hearing via Whatsapp Video Conferencing and provide Whatsapp number for the same. The authority will notify the date and time of the hearing, which will have to be confirmed by the noticees a day in advance, while a noticee will have to confirm his or her presence for the hearing 15 minutes prior to the given date and time, via text by the given Whatsapp Number.
Whatsapp communication will also be used by the authorities to send out personal hearing memos in PDF form after the hearings conclude. These will have to be signed by the noticee or noticees concerned and sent back to the authority on the same Whatsapp number, within 15 minutes of receipt.
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