We are a limited company into merchant exporters and use the services of clearing and forwarding agents for export of goods outside India. We had filed an online application claiming refund (in terms of Notification No. 41/2012 dated 29 June 2012) of the Service tax paid on the aforesaid services availed during the period December 2012 to March 2013 on 03 September 2013. However, the hard copy of the same along with the requisite documents was submitted on 9 January 2014. It is pertinent to note that the refund claim was filed electronically through ACES within the period of one year of export of goods (i.e. limitation period allowed under the law for filing of refund claim). However, the supporting documents for such refund claims were submitted after the period of one year of export of goods. The above refund application has been rejected alleging that the refund claim is time barred considering the date of filing of refund claims to be 9 January 2014 i.e. the date of submission of hard copies. Please suggest whether we are entitled to refund for the aforementioned period.
The issue in the instant case is whether the date of filing refund claim is the date on which refund has been filed electronically or the date on which documents have been physically submitted.
In this regard, we wish to mention that the ACES portal has been specifically developed by the Revenue Department for electronic automation of all major processes in Central Excise and Service Tax such as Registration, filing of returns, intimations, payment, refund and rebates. The same gets supported from the Trade Notice No. 14/ST/2009-ST dated 17 September 2009 issued by the Commissionerate of Service Tax, New Delhi.
Further, Circular No 956/17/2011 dated 28 September 2011 issued by CBEC, provides that CBEC has rolled out a new centralised, web-based and work flow based software application called ACES. It has automated the major processes of Central Excise and Service Tax – Registration, returns, refunds etc. It benefits the assessees as it reduces the physical interface with the department and reduces paper work by electronic filing of all documents etc.
Therefore, the law itself provides for electronic filing of refund claims.
Since, in the instant case, the refund claims had been filed electronically through ACES within the limitation period, therefore, in our view, the same should be considered as the date of filing of refund irrespective of the date of physical submission of documents.
Our aforesaid view gets supported from the judicial decision pronounced in the case of NCS Pearson India Private ltd v C.C & C .E & S.T, [2014 (313) ELT 639], wherein the Hon’ble Delhi Tribunal has allowed the refund claim of the assessee which was filed electronically prior to the limitation period of 1 year but supporting documents for which were submitted physically after the period of 1 year.
Accordingly, the Company may seek to challenge the rejection order issued by the authorities.
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