The state goods and service tax department on Monday issued notices to around 50 homestays in Fort Kochi area, stating that they should come under the purview of Goods and Service Tax (GST). There are 250 homestay service providers in the West Kochi and all of them will be issued notices in the coming days by the sales tax department. Meanwhile, the homestay operators said this move would adversely affect their businesses and lead to the closure of homestays which were the livelihood of around 1,000 people in Fort Kochi area alone. “As per the GST norms, those running services below Rs 20 lakh a year are exempted from registration. But the notice issued by state GST department clearly states that we are liable for paying GST,” said Antony Kureethra, president, Tourism Promoters’ Association, an umbrella organization which has 140 members in Fort Kochi. The state GST department has also asked homestay operators to come to its office in Kochi on July 17 for a hearing. The homestay owners should also produce the documents like the register of customers, bank statement for 2018-19 period, cash book and receipt book for 2018-19, ledgers and other books maintained by them and the licence issued by the local authority.
Meanwhile, officials with the state GST department said that they just conducted a survey for exploring the possibilities of bringing more establishments under GST. “We conducted the survey as per the direction of the state finance department. We haven’t given notices to the homestay owners seeking GST,” an officer with state GST department said. At the same time, the notice issued by state GST department, a copy of which has been procured by TOI, clearly stated that the homestays are liable for paying GST. “It is found that you are liable to get registered under Section 22 of the CGST/SGST Act, 2017. In order to finalize the enquiry relating to your registration liability, you are requested to furnish the following documents for verification within 7 days,” notice issued to one of the homestay owners stated. “Many of the operators think that the GST department would come knocking their doors if there is a homestay board at their facilities. So, they have started to remove the boards on Monday night itself,” said one of the homestay owners. The Tourism Promoters’ Association has decided to approach the top officials of the GST department. They made it clear that the association would move the court if needed.