Wednesday, July 8, 2015

CBEC unveils procedure for maintenance of electronic records and their authentication by digital signature

The Hon’ble Finance Minister in his budget speech for 2015-16 announced that Central Excise and Service Tax assessees will be allowed to issue digitally signed invoices and to maintain electronic records. Requisite amendments were done in Central Excise Rules, 2002 and Service Tax Rules, 1994. Further, CBEC had been given power to specify conditions, safeguards and procedure to be followed by an assessee for using digitally signed invoices and for preserving digitally signed records.
Finally, CBEC has laid down the system for issue of invoices, preserving records in electronic form and authentication of records and invoices by digital signatures. The system is as follows:
1) Assessee who opts to maintain records in electronic form having more than one factory or service tax registration shall maintain separate electronic records for each factory or each service tax registration.
2) Assessee shall use Class 2 or Class 3 Digital Signature Certificate duly issued by the Certifying Authority in India.
3) Assessee proposing to use digital signature shall intimate following details to jurisdictional Deputy Commissioner/Assistant Commissioner (“authority”), at least fifteen days in advance:
a) name, e-mail id, office address and designation of the person authorised to use the digital signature certificate;
b) name of the Certifying Authority;
c) date of issue of digital certificate and validity of the digital signature with a copy of the certificate issued by the Certifying Authority along with the complete address of the said Authority
4) Assessee already using digital signature shall intimate to authority the above details within fifteen days of issue of this notification, i.e., July 21, 2015.
5) Any change in details shall also be intimated to authority within fifteen days of such change.
6) Assessee shall ensure that appropriate backup of records in electronic form is maintained and preserved for a period of 5 years immediately after the financial year to which such records pertain to.
7) On request by a Central Excise Office, assessee shall produce the specified records in electronic form and invoices through e-mail or on a specified storage device in an electronically readable format for verification of the authenticity of the document. The officer shall specify the request for such records and invoices in the letter or e-mail.
8) During enquiry/investigation/audit, a Central Excise Officer may direct an assessee to furnish printouts of the records in electronic form and invoices and may retain printouts of such records and invoices after verifying the correctness of the same in electronic format. The officer may also request assessee or his authorized representative to sign print outs of such records in electronic form –Notification No 18/2015-Central Excise (N.T.) Dated July 6, 2015.
CBEC also issued instructions to its officers explaining features of above system and laid down procedures for verification of digitally signed invoices and documents vide F. No. 224/44/2014-CX-6 Dated July 6, 2015.