Covid-19 – A Tale of two Courts

As the world grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic; different approaches of the judiciary to pending tax matters merit attention. In mid-March, both the Kerala and Allahabad High Courts proactively took note of the risk to lawyers, court staff and judges on account of increase in the number of petitions being filed daily and passed orders restricting the Centre and State Governments from initiating tax recovery proceedings or taking any coercive measures till April 6, 2020.[1] The Kerala High Court also held that the assessment proceedings required to be completed before March 31, 2020 could also be deferred subject to the order of the Court.
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 Banana for Rs 442 - GST Tax Laws

A recent social media post by an Indian actor depicting an invoice issued by a prominent hotel where he was charged INR 442 for two bananas created widespread furor among the public, industry players and the tax authorities, with certain quarters challenging the legality of levy of Goods and Service Tax (“GST”) itself on the supplies made. The invoice indicated the description of the sale item as a ‘fruit platter’ and the cumulative rate of GST as 18%. The Central Excise & Taxation Department also swung into action, served a show cause notice to the hotel and imposed a penalty of INR 25,000 for levying GST on sale of bananas. According to the department, serving bananas to the customer in a hotel room was an exempt supply of goods, not involving any element of service.

The banana row brings to light the classic conundrum of classification of composite supplies and consequent rate of GST applicable to such supplies. Composite supplies refers to supplies of two or more taxable supplies of goods or services or both, which are naturally bundled and supplied in conjunction with each other in the ordinary course of business, one of which is a principal supply (for example, supply of an air-conditioner coupled with delivery and installation at the customer’s premises would be a composite supply with supply of air-conditioner being the principal supply). The rate of tax in case of a composite supply is the rate applicable to the principal supply.
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