Automated check-in machines stand next to manned check-in desks inside the newly inaugurated Terminal 2 building at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) in Delhi. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

International Passengers Need Not Pay GST At Indian Airports’ Duty-Free Shops

International passengers buying goods at airport ‘duty-free’ shops will not be subject to Goods and Services Tax, and the revenue department will soon clarify on this exemption, an official said.

Following an order passed in March by the New Delhi bench of the Authority for Advance Ruling stating that GST would be leviable on sale of goods from ‘duty-free’ shops at airports, the revenue department had received many representations seeking clarification on the issue.

“The position of the revenue department has always been that we cannot export our taxes. We will issue a clarification stating that duty-free shops would not levy GST,” the official told news agency PTI.

The revenue department will clarify that duty-free shops will have to only collect a copy of the passport from the passenger to whom it sells the goods and later on seeks GST refund from the government, the official added.

This means, like exporters, duty-free shops can claim a refund from the government for the GST it has paid in procuring goods from manufacturers. The copy of the passport will be treated as proof of sale of the products.

Also read: Langars To Get GST Refund From Centre

Experts said that the AAR order had put such shops in a fix since they were exempt from central sales tax and value-added tax in the earlier indirect tax regime. In the past regime, sale from such shops was considered as exports and supplies were taking place beyond the 'customs frontiers' of India.

AMRG & Associates Partner Rajat Mohan said ‘duty-free’ shops enjoy a tax neutral status globally as a matter of international understanding.

“The GST policy wing is planning to come out with a circular clarifying on the zero-rating status of such duty-free shops and circular may also outlay a detailed procedure of claiming a refund of the taxes so paid,” Mohan said.

EY Partner-Tax Abhishek Jain said such transactions are akin to exports and it is a stated policy that tax should not be levied on export of goods.

“This would bring a lot of relief to duty-free shops and would keep them competitive with duty-free shops in other countries,” Jain added.

Also read: GST Collections Stay Above Average At Rs 94,016 Crore In April

The AAR held that the supply of goods to international passengers going abroad from duty-free shops are happening within the territory of India under the Central GST Act.

Since the duty-free shops are situated within the territory of India and was not taking goods out of India, hence their supply cannot be called ‘export’ under Section 2(5) of the Integrated GST Act, 2017, or zero-rated supply under Section 2(23) and Section 16(1) of the IGST Act,2017.

Under section 2(5) of the IGST Act, export of goods takes place only when goods are taken out to a location outside India. The country is defined under Section 2(27) of the Customs Act as "India includes the territorial waters of India".

Under Section 2(56) of the CGST Act, India means the territory of India, including its territorial waters and the airspace above its land and territorial waters.

Hence, the goods can be said to be exported only when they cross the territorial waters of India and the products cannot be called to be exported merely on crossing the Customs Frontiers of India, as per the discussions before the AAR.

The Delhi AAR in case of ROD Retail Private Ltd ruled against the age-old policy of not levying taxes on them by ordering that GST will be payable by duty-free shops in India.

Also read: Government Sanctions Rs 30,000-Crore GST Refunds To Exporters