CAs can audit; Sales Tax Lawyers can’t: HC

In a decision that will affect the lawyers specialising in Sales Tax laws as well as former Sales Tax officers’ who work as sales tax practitioners, Bombay High Court has held that only Chartered Accountants (CAs) can audit and certify accounts for traders.

Hitherto, traders had to hire only sales tax lawyers or former sales tax officers as advisors in tax matters. But a recent amendment to Maharashtra Value Added Tax Act made it mandatory for traders with sale of over Rs 40 lakhs to get their accounts audited and certified by a professional CA.

The amendment specifies that only a CA can audit the account. It allows lawyers and other sales tax practitioners to represent traders before sales tax commissioner and tribunals, but not to audit accounts.

Various organisations, including Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa, the Sales Tax Practitioners Association of Maharashtra and Bombay Small Scale Industries Association moved High Court, claiming that this restraint violated right to equality enshrined in the Constitution.

Also, it would force traders to cough up extra money for engaging CAs, they contended. But division bench of Justices F I Rebello and R S Mohite rejected these arguments. “Auditing is a specialised job which can be undertaken by the person professionally competent and trained to audit,” judges said, holding that advocates and other sales tax practitioners were not qualified for this job.

SOURCE

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