Liability Of Advocates To Register For, And Pay, GST – Entire Law Explained

Advocate P.C. Joshi, the well known expert on GST, has explained the entire law relating to whether Advocates are liable for registration, and to pay tax, under the Goods and Service Tax Act (GST). He has also explained whether the payers of fees to Advocates are liable for ‘reverse charge’. He has also clarified doubts as to whether Advocates have to issue their Memo of fees in any particular format

Though no official notification is so far issued, as per the press report, the Goods and Service Tax Act (GST) will be enforced on and with effect from 1st July, 2017. Even if that date is postponed to some other date in future still the moot question about the status of Advocates rendering legal services would arise for our advocate members. It is from that point of view, I would examine hereinthe relevant legal provisions under the said enactment, and offer may view thereon.

2. Before I consider the actual status of Advocates it would be beneficial to know certain basic provisions which will have its impact on the question on hand.


3. Term ‘business’ have been defined u/s.2(17) of the CGST Act to include any profession, vocation etc., and therefore advocates carrying on the legal profession would be covered.

4. The fees charged to a client for the legal services rendered by an advocate, would be covered by the inclusive definition of the term ‘consideration’ u/s. 2(31). Similarly u/s.2(93) the client receiving the benefit of such professional services would be a recipient of supply of services. On the same analogy the advocates supplying the professional legal services would be supplier of his services as defined u/s.2(105) read with section 7(1)(a) while the taxable person is one who is registered or is liable to be registered u/s.22 or 24.

Charging section:

5. The heart of the levy would naturally be the charging section 9 which provide for the levy and collection of tax. Section 9(1) provide for the normal levy of tax of GST on all intra-State supplies of goods or services for both on the value that may be arrived at under section 15 of the Act. The payment in question is to be collected and paid by the taxable person as defined section 2 (107) service provider i.e. the person who is registered or liable to be registered u/s.22 or section 24. The topic of registration under those section will be dealt with separately later on. Section 9(3) provide for the collection of tax on the notified supplies of services on reverse charge basis,from the recipient of such services and all the provisions of the Act would apply to such recipient as if he is the person liable for payment of tax in relation to the supply of such services.

Reverse Charge Payments:

6. As per the discussion in the GST Council Meeting held on 18th and 19th May, 2017 apart from the rates of GST for supply of goods, it also approved certain services for the purpose of reverse charge provisions as well as those which will be notified to be exempted services in exercise of its power u/s.11(1) read with section 9(3).

7. Under the definition u/s.2(98) of the term ‘reverse charge’ it would be the liability of the recipient to pay tax on the supply of such notified services. The list of such services under reverse charge have been published for general information which will be given effect to, through gazette notification after the law is enforced. Entry 3 therein reads as under:

Sl.No Service Provider of Service Percentage of service tax payable by service provider Recipient of Service Percentage of service tax payable by any other person  other than service provider
3. Services provided or agreed to be provided by an individual advocate or firm of advocates by way of legal services, directly or indirectly An individual advocate or firm of advocates NIL Any business entity 100%


8. On the same day the GST council also decided certain services to be notified as exempted services. The list include services by Govt., or local authority but restricted to the specified services, services by Reserve Bank and other similar bodies. Entry 15 provides for exemption to services provided by an arbitral tribunal to any person other than a business entity or such entity having turnover upto 20 Lakhs. It also specify services provided by a partnership firm of Advocates or an individual as an Advocate, other than a senior Advocate, by way of legal service to an advocate or their firm. The legal service so exempted by an Advocate would also include the same rendered to any person other than a business entity or such an entity with a turnover of less than 20 lakhs in the preceding financial year. As far as senior Advocates are concerned their legal services would be exempted if rendered to any person other than a business entity or such entity having less than 20 Lakhs turnover in the preceding Financial Year.

Legal Services

9. Considering the impact of both the above decisions by GST Council it is by now very clear that an individual advocate rendering legal service to any business entity is not liable to pay any tax as service provider and 100% thereof is payable by the recipient of the service i.e. the client or a business entity. It may kindly be noted here that the reverse charge liability refers to all types of advocates without any exception as is the case for exempted services. Again the exempted services is restricted only when the professional legal services were rendered to another advocate or their partnership firm also providing such services or to a person other than a business entity as also the entity having turnover of less than 20 Lakhs. Similar limitation is also provided when the legal services is provided by senior advocates however in their case, the legal service to another advocate is not exempted therefore in such cases the list of reverse charge system will be applicable under which as mentioned hereinabove, there is no classification of senior advocate and other advocate, under which the service tax payable by the service provider (an advocate or his firm) would be nil and 100% service tax would be payable by the recipient of the services in question.


10. Having considered the liability of an advocate, another question would be in regard to the necessity for registration under the GST Act.

11. For considering the aforesaid question the provisions of chapter VI especially section 22 and 24 will be applicable. Section 22 is applicable to those suppliers, who had a turnover of more than 20 lakhs in one financial year and for those persons who were already registered under the existing law i.e. Service Tax or State VAT Act. It also apply to a transferee who take overthe business of the transferor (slump sale transactions). The latest decision taken by GST Council on 11th June, 2017 is to the effect that advocates have been granted exemption from registration under section 23(2) of the CGST Act 2017 which inter-alia include Individual advocates (including senior advocates). Thus my view gets statutory support by the above referred notification.

12. Section 24 refer to certain persons who were statutorily required to be registered. Such persons include inter-alia a person who was required to pay tax under reverse charge. In other words if an advocate renders legal service to a person not otherwise liable for registration such person will have to get himself registered because of his legal liability to pay tax as a service receiver from an advocate under reverse charge system. Section 24 also provide for other categories of persons who are required to be registered under the Act. Accordingly a person making supplies within the State is required to be registered even if he happens to be a casual taxable person or a non-resident taxable person making taxable supply within the State. Such persons other than casual and non-resident persons have to apply for registration within a period of 30 days from the date on which he may become liable, while the non-resident or a casual supplier have to obtain the registration, in advance at least before five days prior to commencement of the supply activity in the State.

13. Applying the above provisions to an advocate rendering legal service though not liable for registration, the person to whom he may make payment for rendering services to him, may be a company rendering consultancy service or to an auditor for the purpose of filing the return under Income Tax Law or for auditing the books of the Advocate liable u/s.44AB of that Act will not be so covered by the reverse charge liability of the recepient of supplies. In such cases the payment to junior for his rendering service to the Advocate would be covered by the notification of exemption under entry 15 (b) (i) if such junior happen to be an advocate. In case of the services other than legal services, rendered to an advocate for which the fees are paid, would not be exempt and therefore such supplies of services would be taxable with the result such service providers will have to get themselves registered as taxable persons.

14 Considering the scope of both the sections 22 and 24, there is no provision making it obligatory for an advocate to obtain registration under GST, I am of the firm opinion that an advocate covered by the reverse charge system is not required to get himself registered for his rendering legal services.

Format of Invoice:

15. The other question incidental to above controversy is the format of the invoice to be prepared by an advocate to his client. In that regard a short question arises is whether an advocate has necessarily to quantify the tax that is required to be paid by the service recipient. In that regard the provisions of rule 4A of the Service Tax Rules, 1994 is referred. In my view, the impression so gathered is unfounded in absence of any similar rule in regard to the Invoice Rules already available under GST.

16. Section 31(2) provide for issue of tax invoice by a registered person supplying taxable services within the prescribed period. An advocate covered by Reverse charge for rendering legal service would not be a registered person and therefore that provision is not applicable to him. On the contrary u/s.31(3)(f), a person who is required to pay tax under the reverse charge system, for receiving the supply of services is required to issue on invoice to himself on the date when he receive the services. He has also to issue a payment voucher at the time of making payment to the advocate concerned for supply of his legal services. The revised invoice rules do not contain any provision parallel to 4A of the Service Tax Rules 1994 therefore the advocate can continue to issue usual memo of fees for the legal services as per the manner presently followed which does not require any change or modification.

New Scheme of Classifications

17. While concluding I may refer to the proposed new Scheme of classification of services under the headings of service code tariff. Under the heading 9982 the group of legal and accounting services are enumerated. 99821 refers to legal services as under :

998211: Legal advisory and representation services concerning criminal law.
998212: Legal advisory and representation services concerning other fields of law.
998213: Legal documentation and certification services concerning patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights.
998214: Legal documentation and certification services concerning other documents.
998215: Arbitration and conciliation services
998216: Other legal services not elsewhere covered (n.e.c.).

Matter Sub-Judice

18. While on the subject I may also refer to the presently pending issue before the Supreme Court in my own case being SLP Number 10855 of 2015 arising out of the judgment of the Bombay High Court dated 15th December, 2014 holding the advocates liable to pay tax under the service tax under the Finance Act 1994 during the period prior to the issuance of Notification No.30 of 2012 dated 20th June, 2012 but after insertion of 65(105) (zzzzm) by Finance Act, 2011. The Bombay Bar Association have also filed a separate petition which also is tagged up with my petition.The operation and implementation of the Bombay High Court Judgment have been stayed.

19. Summing up the discussion I may recommend to all my professional advocates brothers and sisters to keep all their clients well informed about their reverse charge obligation to pay GST for the legal services that may be rendered in future instead of taking advantage of the exemption notification.

I hope I have been able to clear all the doubts in the minds of fellow advocates who may not be conversant with the GST provisions.

Disclaimer: The contents of this document are solely for informational purpose. It does not constitute professional advice or a formal recommendation. While due care has been taken in preparing this document, the existence of mistakes and omissions herein is not ruled out. Neither the author nor and its affiliates accepts any liabilities for any loss or damage of any kind arising out of any inaccurate or incomplete information in this document nor for any actions taken in reliance thereon. No part of this document should be distributed or copied (except for personal, non-commercial use) without express written permission of
21 comments on “Liability Of Advocates To Register For, And Pay, GST – Entire Law Explained
  1. Nidhi B says:

    If any advocate given a bill for notary charges, whether gst is applicable for the same.

  2. Bma says:

    I a Company taking legal services from an Advocate in Delhi and I am in West Bengal having GST number. Tax is to be paid by me under reverse charge. Should I pay IGST or SCST/CGST??please clarify

  3. KUNTAL BAKSI says:

    I am a panel Adovocate of a Nationalized Bank. Bank Manager is asking for gst certificate number to pay for my services. What should I do?

  4. madhavi says:

    if the recipient client is an individual & not a business entity, then just to pay the GST under RCM ,whether that individual has to take GST no?

  5. Rajkishore says:

    One important point still remains to be answered. If an advocate in India gets an assignment to incorporate a company in India from a foreign parent company, who is a non-resident, should the advocate charge GST on his invoice, collect GST and pay to the Government or should the non-resident entity be obliged to register under the GST law for this one single transaction, and pay GST to the Government under RCM? Again, in many instances lawyers are contacted by foreign companies who are sued by Indians or Indian companies before courts in India to represent them in the legal proceedings in India and the appearance fees may run to several lakhs. Should the lawyer collect the GST and pay to the Government or should the non-resident litigant who has no connection to this country except for this one-off litigation, which he is forced to defend, register under GST and pay GST under RCM?

    • Krishnan says:

      This comes under export of services. No gst for export of services. hope you have received payment in foreign currency. registration is mandatory. You can get refund of input services and goods also. Hope this will clarify. Anyway I am not expert in gst.

  6. ANAND says:


  7. Rushik says:

    Service provide by senior advocate to firm of advocate is taxable in reverse charge mechanism if turnover is above threshold limit
    There for whether firm of advocate is required to register under GST ?
    Since advocate are exempt from registration

  8. Ashish Goyal says:

    what will be the rate of GST in case of RCM? In other words, at what rate, the client shall pay GST?

  9. Calm says:

    How will “Reverse charge” in the legal profession be implemented on consultants of foreign corporates .

  10. Jignesh Mehta says:

    In many firms of advocates and individual advocates, the services are availed from other firms of advocates, councils, solicitors etc. The memo raised by such persons whether on that GST is to be paid by advocates on RCM basis. Since such services are availed on behalf of clients.

  11. Gajanand Verma a Practicing Advocate in Taxation & Corporate says:

    In case of Senior Advocate provide Legal consultancy to Junior Advocate No need to pay GST under RCM by Junior advocate being Advocate is exempted from Registration u/s 23(2) of CGST Act, 2017. The Exempted person is not liable to pay GST even under RCM.

  12. Nitin Chopra says:

    What if an advocate receives a legal service from a senior advocate, and is he liable to pay GST under RCM? Since entry no: 15 Service Tax Exemptions to be continued in GST as decided by GST Council, has specifically left out the sub clause (b) (i) in (c)
    entry 15 (b)(i) an advocate or partnership firm of advocates providing legal services,
    entry 15 (c) a senior advocate by way of legal services.
    From understanding the above the advocate who receives the legal service from a Senior Advocate, has to register then only he will be able to pay under RCM. Sec 23 (2) will not be applicable in this case. Is this correct or even if the advocate receives service from senior advocate he is not liable to pay under RCM?

  13. Dinesh Bhattacharya says:

    Sir, Very nice analysis. Informative also. The provision will definitely help the small legal professionals.

  14. As per Decisions in regard to Services taken by the GST Council in the 16th meeting held on 11th of June 2017, Individual advocates (including senior advocates) are now Exempt from registration under section 23(2) of the CGST Act 2017

  15. Durgesh P Sabne says:

    I differ on the following grounds
    -Definition of aggregate supply includes supply of taxable goods as well as exempt services
    -Services of advocate to business entities is not exempt Only GST needs to be paid on reverse charge basis
    -Therefore advocates need to register under GST if gross receipts from all services exceed Rs 20 lakhs

    • SR says:

      Sir, You may refer June 11 Notification, where advocates are exempt from registration by virtue of Section 23(2). So even if it crosses 20 Lakhs, there is no requirement for registration

    • Gajanand Verma a Practicing Advocate in Taxation & Corporate says:

      Legal Services is not exempted Services it is taxable Services under RCM by the Recipient.
      The GST Council in their meeting held on 11/06/2017 amend section 23 as under;
      c) Exemption from registration under Section 23(2) of the CGST Act, 2017 has been extended to –

      1. Individual advocates (including senior advocates)

      In my opinion Advocate who hold LAW degree and providing Legal services to his client is exempt for registration under GST but the services provided by him is not exempted. The Recipient who is a business entity shall be liable to pay GST under RCM.

      The Advocate exclusive engaging in Law Profession need not to be registered under GST.

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