Monetary Limit Instructions


As an extension of the national litigation policy intending to curb litigation initiated at the instance of government departments — the Revenue Departments have been issuing instructions to the field formations not to pursue cases involving low tax incidence. These instructions colloquially referred as “monetary limit instructions” carry statutory force and are essentially de minimus limits for tax litigation, intended to relieve small disputes such that the government resources can be gainfully employed in significant tax disputes. The GST Department has issued its monetary limit instructions. However, a review of the fine print reveals that the exceptions enumerated therein are such wide and pervasive that it is doubtful if they will be able to obviate small tax disputes.

Background and rationale for monetary limit circulars

The legal position is settled that Government cannot discriminate amongst taxpayers.1 Thus, when question arising for consideration and facts are almost identical to case of another taxpayer, the Revenue Department cannot be allowed to take a different stand.2 For this reason, the Revenue Department is obliged to pursue each case on the proposition it seeks to contest, irrespective of the stakes involved in such cases. In order to address the larger implications (especially cost-benefit analysis qua departmental resources) arising from these propositions, the legislature amended the fiscal laws to insert provisions enabling the Revenue Departments to permit closure of cases where it considered the monetary stakes involved were not sufficient to justify such appeals.3 These provisions permit the Revenue Departments to issue instructions specifying the monetary limit below which appeals needs not be filed by the Revenue Officers. Additionally, where appeals have already been filed earlier, those below the threshold are to be withdrawn, thereby resulting into reduction of government litigation.4

In order to ensure that the non-filing of appeal in case of a particular taxpayer does not estop the Revenue Department from pursuing appeals against other taxpayers, these provisions specifically state that non-filing of appeal owing to observance of monetary limits “shall not preclude (the Department from pursing) … any other case involving the same or similar issues or questions of law”. The provisions especially clarify that non-filing of appeal shall not imply that the Revenue “has acquiesced in the decision on the disputed issue by not filing appeal”. Thus, these provisions appear to statutory overrule the judicial principles qua taxpayer parity and safeguard the right of the Revenue Department to adopt the de minimus principle by ensuring that the precious government resources are spent on pursuing cases with worthwhile stakes which warrant contest.

The underlying foundation of ensuring monetary limit is also in line with the National Litigation Policy which specifically highlights contests by the Revenue Department as the substantial contributor to government litigation.5 These provisions, while not impacting the rights of the taxpayers to contest adverse decisions, permit the Revenue Department to be selective in choosing to litigate, thereby permitting sufficient flexibility. For example, a key feature of the monetary limit instructions has been different monetary limits being specified qua different forums; the amounts being progressively enhanced across appeals for tribunals, High Courts and Supreme Court. Furthermore, the monetary limit instructions guide the Revenue Officers in choosing to litigate not just at the time of the initial dispute but also at all stages. In other words, if a case remains pending for long and in the meanwhile the monetary limits has been enhanced beyond the disputed amount, the case would no longer be pursued notwithstanding that it was within the prescribed monetary limit at the time of its institution.6 Thus, the monetary limit circulars ensure that the litigation being pursued by the Revenue Officers before tribunals and courts is in line with the contemporary cost-benefit analysis paradigm determined at the policy level notwithstanding the period involved in the dispute or date of origin of the disputes.

GST monetary limit instructions

Similar to other fiscal legislations, the GST laws also incorporate a statutory provision enabling the Revenue Department to evolve its monetary limits.7 So far, owing to the non-functioning of the GST Tribunal, there was no occasion to effectuate these provisions. In its recent meeting the GST Council has recommended monetary limit for filing of appeals by the Department, to reduce litigation.8 These recommendations have been incorporated in the statutory instructions issued by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) along with the detailed guidelines as regards the application of these monetary limits.9

Even though the underlying intent of this GST monetary limit instructions is laudable, in line with the original objective of these provisions, the manner in which these instructions are cast lend doubt as to whether these would really be able to achieve the intended objective. In fact, even before reviewing the guidelines for applying them, the monetary limits are itself curiously cast. The following monetary limits have been recommended by the GST Council, which have been adopted by the CBIC; for GST Appellate Tribunal — INR 20 lakhs; for High Court — INR 1 crore; and for Supreme Court — INR 2 crores. To illustrate their working, a decision in favour of the taxpayer having tax effect of INR 75 lakhs can be contested by the GST Officers before the GST Appellate Tribunal but, in the event of success therein to the taxpayer, cannot be contested before the High Court in view of the tax quantum being below the specified monetary threshold. These monetary limits are curious as the de minimus threshold for appeal to GST Appellate Tribunal is only a meagre INR 20 lakhs. Not just that this quantum is per se low, compared to the current economic trends in the country, in fact, in comparison, the Government has adopted the threshold of INR 50 lakhs qua central excise and service tax matters before the Appellate Tribunal, which threshold has existed since 2019.10 One wonders upon the rationale of lower threshold for GST Tribunal matters in the wake of higher threshold in the erstwhile laws which have already been subsumed in GST when, in fact, in view of the reformative agenda of GST and the economic progression of the nation, the threshold should have been enhanced.

Besides the aforesaid thresholds, there are other guidelines in the instructions on how to apply the GST monetary limits. Essentially, in order to ascertain the quantum involved in the case, only the tax element is to be reckoned while excluding the interest and penalties.11 This is in line with the existing mechanisms to compute the monetary limit thresholds.12 It is, however, the series of exclusions set out in the instructions which are a cause of concern. These exclusions are:

(i) where any provision of a GST enactment “has been held to be ultra vires to the Constitution”;

(ii) where any GST rule/regulation/order/notification/instruction/circular has been held to be ultra vires;

(iii) “where the matter is related to (a) valuation of goods or services; (b) classification of goods or services; (c) refunds; (d) place of supply; or (e) any other issue, which is recurring in nature and/or involves interpretation of the provisions of the Act/the Rules/notification/circular/order/instruction, etc.”;

(iv) “where strictures/adverse comments have been passed and/or cost has been imposed against the Government/Department or their officers”; or

(v) “any other case or class of cases, where in the opinion of the Board, it is necessary to contest in the interest of justice or revenue”.

As is apparent, the exclusions are very widely worded. Furthermore, in comparison to the exclusions under the erstwhile laws’ monetary limits instructions,13 the exclusions in the GST regime are far-reaching. Thus, they require a close scrutiny.

Appreciating the scope of exclusions from GST monetary limit instructions

One can appreciate the reason for excluding the cases wherein statutory provisions or subordinate legislation have been declared ultra vires. There are no two views that in case of a declaration of unconstitutionality the declaration is in rem and hence applicable to all irrespective of the quantum of tax involved in that particular case. In fact it is appropriate if such disputes obtain the imprimatur of the superior courts as a declaration on the validity of law has far-reaching consequences.

The question really is the propriety and objective for en masse exclusion of various categories of cases. Firstly, by excluding categories of cases relating to valuation, classification, refunds and place of supply, the instruction virtually excludes all major species of cases which are expected to arise in the GST regime. Only minor cases such as those relating to detention, seizure or other infractions of the GST law would not be covered by these categories. However, even these species of cases would get covered under the category of “any other issue”. Hence, virtually any and every class of GST dispute would get covered under one of the excluded categories of GST monetary limit instruction. The net impact of this delineation in the instruction is that the Revenue Officer only needs to determine if the case presents an issue “which is recurring in nature and/or involves interpretation of the provisions of the Act/the Rules/notification/circular/order/instruction, etc.” Here as well, the answer to the question in most cases would be in the affirmative as owing to ongoing business operations and economic activity, it is only in rare cases that the issue would not have a recurring impact. Furthermore, it is also not necessary that the issue is indeed recurring as even a one-off cases can be excluded from operation of monetary limits as virtually every case “involves interpretation of the provisions of the Act/the Rules/notification/circular/order/instruction” of the GST law. Pithily put, arguably there is no case which would not meet the description of this exclusion from the monetary limit. In other words, given the wide latitude it entails, this exclusion appears to permit a Revenue Officer to contest virtually any case irrespective of the monetary quantum.

One fails to understand the purpose of such exclusion. To illustrate, refund cases have specifically been included as carve-out from monetary limits. This is despite the fact that tax administration in the pre-GST regime had specifically declared that monetary limits apply even to refund matters.14 The likely impact of this exclusion would be that small taxpayers engaged in export and seeking refund will have to contest the cases, possibly, till the highest court, before obtaining refund. This appears not just counterintuitive to the underlying objective of the monetary limit policy but also counterproductive to the objective of reducing tax litigation.

As regards the other categories, even if one was to derive the logic that cases which involve valuation, classification, refunds and place of supply are those which have a large impact owing to their critical setting within the GST legislation, still their exclusion is baffling for various reasons. Firstly, there is absolutely no rational for excluding “any other issue”. With this omnibus category, there is no need for any other categorisation qua the nature of the dispute. Secondly, even if there are certain issues which are fundamental to GST architecture, there is no necessity to get them decided in a low-stake contest. That is the very purpose of monetary limit and the statutory explanation that no contest for such reasons “shall not preclude” the contest “any other case involving the same or similar issues or questions of law”. In short, why subject a small taxpayer or a low value case to contest on an important issue when the Tax Department can always contest the same in any other case.

The other category of exclusion is all the more baffling. It states that cases “where strictures/adverse comments have been passed and/or cost has been imposed against the Government/Department or their officers” shall not be subject to monetary limit. Imagine a case wherein a taxpayer’s refund was unnecessarily withheld that therefore the court imposed a cost of INR 10,000 for the delay upon the GST Department generally or on one of its officers in particular. In such a case the Department would not be precluded from the meagreness of the cost awarded and would be within its right to contest the levy of cost in appeal. In such cases, the cost of an appellate challenge would far exceed the cause for challenge. Literally translated, one would hope that this exclusion is not a leeway for ego contest. Notwithstanding the lack of any rationale for this exclusion, what is not understood is why subject the poor taxpayer to defend the matter is appeal when levy of costs (as also issuing strictures) is an exclusive prerogative of the court, and the taxpayer has absolutely no say in the manner in which the decision is authored by the court or cost is granted.


It was a step in the right direction to obviate litigation when in 2011 the fiscal laws were amended to enable the tax officers from observing the de minimus rule qua the prescribed monetary limit. The experience of more than a decade of the working of the provision and the instructions issued thereunder have revealed that the desired objective is indeed being realised; only issues which merit contest are litigated in tribunals and courts. One would have hoped that the policy framers were guided by the same approach while drafting the instructions for monetary limits under the GST laws. A close reading of the instruction, however, reveals that the widely worded exclusions are likely to render the instruction drastically short of achieving the desired objective. It is perhaps too early to judge its success (or failure) but given that it has just been issued, it is more appropriate at this juncture to hope that the instruction would not be rendered as a mere bureaucratic formality (involving another layer of red tape) without making any impact on the ground.

†Advocate, Supreme Court of India. LLM, London School of Economics; BBA, LLB (Hons.) (Double Gold Medalist), National Law University, Jodhpur. The author can be reached at:

1. For illustration, see Damodar J. Malpani v. CCE, (2004) 12 SCC 70.

2. For illustration, see Birla Corpn. Ltd. v. CCE, (2005) 6 SCC 95; Jayaswals NECO Ltd. v. CCE, (2007) 13 SCC 807; CCE v. Amar Bitumen & Allied Products (P) Ltd., (2010) 13 SCC 76.

3. For illustration, see Customs Act, 1962, S. 131-BA; Income Tax Act, 1961, S. 268-A, etc.

4. See generally, Response of Minister of Law and Justice, Government of India to question raised in Lok Sabha regarding National Litigation Policy, Unstarred Question No. 3810 dated 25-3-2022, available at <>.

5. For illustration, see Press Information Bureau, National Litigation Policy, (17-12-2021) available at <>.

6. See generally, CIT v. S.R.M.B. Dairy Farming (P) Ltd., (2018) 13 SCC 239. For details, see Tarun Jain, “Monetary Limits of Appeals: Retrospectivity of Departmental Instructions”, (2018) 400 ITR (Journal) 44-59.

7. Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, S. 120.

8. Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Finance, Recommendations of 53rd GST Council Meeting, (22-6-2024) available at <>.

9. Ministry of Finance, Government of India, CBIC Circular No. 207/1/2024-GST dated 26-6-2024, available at <>.

10. See CBIC Instruction F. No. 390/Misc./116/2017-JC dated 22-8-2019.

11. Ministry of Finance, Government of India, CBIC Circular No. 207/1/2024-GST dated 26-6-2024, available at <>.

On this aspect, the instruction states as under:

“3. While determining whether a case falls within the above monetary limits or not, the following principles are to be considered:

(i) Where the dispute pertains to demand of tax (with or without penalty and/or interest), the aggregate of the amount of tax in dispute (including CGST, SGST/UTGST, IGST and compensation cess) only shall be considered while applying the monetary limit for filing appeal.

(ii) Where the dispute pertains to demand of interest only, the amount of interest shall be considered for applying the monetary limit for filing appeal.

(iii) Where the dispute pertains to imposition of penalty only, the amount of penalty shall be considered for applying the monetary limit for filing appeal.

(iv) Where the dispute pertains to imposition of late fee only, the amount of late fee shall be considered for applying the monetary limit for filing appeal.

(v) Where the dispute pertains to demand of interest, penalty and/or late fee (without involving any disputed tax amount), the aggregate of amount of interest, penalty and late fee shall be considered for applying the monetary limit for filing appeal.

(vi) Where the dispute pertains to erroneous refund, the amount of refund in dispute (including CGST, SGST/UTGST, IGST and compensation cess) shall be considered for deciding whether appeal needs to be filed or not.

(vii) Monetary limit shall be applied on the disputed amount of tax/interest/penalty/late fee, as the case may be, in respect of which appeal or application is contemplated to be filed in a case.

(viii) In a composite order which disposes more than one appeal/demand notice, the monetary limits shall be applicable on the total amount of tax/interest/penalty/late fee, as the case may be, and not on the amount involved in individual appeal or demand notice.”

12. For illustration, see Commr. of Customs v. Linear Technologies India (P) Ltd., 2024 SCC OnLine Del 3595

13. For illustration, see Reduction of government litigation — Providing monetary limits for filing appeals by the Department before CESTAT/High Courts and Supreme Court — Regarding, Instruction F. No. 390/Misc./163/2010-JC dated 17-8-2011 which carved out exception only on account of constitutional validity of an enactment or rule or declaration of ultra vires by courts.

14. See Reduction of government litigation — Providing monetary limits for filing appeals by the Department before CESTAT/High Courts and Supreme Court — Regarding, Instruction F. No. 390/Misc./163/2010-JC dated 17-8-2011, Para 4(b).

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