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May 30, 2024

SEZ Simplified: Your One-Stop Guide to GST & E-Way Bill Compliance

Nishtha Arora



Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have become a key driver of economic growth in India. These designated areas function almost like separate economic territories within the country, offering businesses a range of benefits. Tax exemptions, duty-free imports, and simplified procedures are just some of the perks that attract companies to set up shop in SEZs.

However, navigating the world of SEZs can get tricky when it comes to taxes and regulations. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the e-Way Bill system introduce specific considerations for businesses operating within SEZs. This blog aims to clear up the confusion by explaining how GST and e-Way Bill rules apply to SEZs in India.

Meaning of Special Economic Zone (SEZ)

Imagine a special zone within India that operates almost like a separate country for trade purposes. That's essentially what a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is. These designated areas are carved out by the government to boost economic activity and attract investment.

So, what makes SEZs so attractive to businesses? Here are some key benefits:

  • Tax Exemptions: Companies operating in SEZs enjoy significant tax breaks, including income tax exemptions and reduced customs duties. This translates to lower operational costs and increased profitability.

  • Duty-Free Imports: SEZs allow businesses to import raw materials and machinery duty-free, further reducing costs and streamlining production processes.

  • Simplified Procedures: SEZs offer a more streamlined regulatory environment with faster clearances and less paperwork, making it easier for businesses to operate.

In short, SEZs act as magnets for companies looking to expand, export goods, and benefit from a business-friendly environment.

Meaning of Export & Import

Before diving deeper into SEZs and their specific rules, let's clarify two key terms: exports and imports.

  • Export: This refers to the outward movement of goods and services from one country to another. When a company in India manufactures shirts and sells them to a buyer in the United States, that's considered an export.

  • Import: On the other hand, import refers to the inward movement of goods and services from a foreign country. If a clothing store in India purchases those same shirts from a US manufacturer, that's considered an import.

These terms become particularly relevant when discussing SEZs because a core function of SEZs is to promote exports. The tax breaks and duty-free benefits offered in SEZs are designed to incentivize businesses to manufacture goods within the zone and then export them to other countries.

Also Read: Mastering Multi-Branch GST Registration in India: A Definitive Guide for Businesses Navigating Multiple GSTINs

GST Laws on SEZ

Now, let's get into the specifics of how the Goods and Services Tax (GST) applies to SEZs. Understanding GST in this context can be a bit puzzling, but don't worry, we'll break it down simply.

The key thing to remember is that supplies to an SEZ unit are considered zero-rated under GST. This means they attract a 0% tax rate, similar to how exports are treated.

Here's a flowchart to illustrate this concept:

Blog Section Image-01.jpg

As you can see, if your supply (sale of goods or services) is going to an SEZ unit, it qualifies as a zero-rated supply with no GST charged. However, if the supply is not going to an SEZ unit, then the regular GST rules and tax rates apply.

Important Note: Even though the supply itself is zero-rated, there are two options available to suppliers for claiming credit on taxes paid on inputs used for these zero-rated supplies to SEZs:

  1. Supply under bond or Letter of Undertaking (LUT): Under this option, you can supply goods/services to the SEZ unit without paying Integrated GST (IGST) upfront. However, you'll need to provide a bond or LUT guaranteeing payment of IGST if you fail to meet certain conditions. This allows you to claim the Input Tax Credit (ITC) on the taxes you paid for the inputs used in the supplies to the SEZ unit.

  2. Supply on payment of IGST and claim a refund: You can also choose to pay the IGST upfront when supplying to the SEZ unit. However, you can then claim a refund of this IGST paid.

E-Way Bill Rules for SEZ

Now that we've covered GST, let's explore how the e-Way Bill system applies to SEZs. This system, which tracks the movement of goods within India, has specific considerations for SEZs.

Here's the key takeaway: the e-Way Bill requirement applies only when goods are moving from an SEZ unit to other locations within India. In simpler terms, if you're sending goods out of the SEZ, you'll likely need an e-Way Bill.

This concept is visualized in the following flowchart:

Blog Section Image-01.jpg

As you can see, if the movement of goods originates from an SEZ unit, an e-Way Bill is mandatory, provided the value of the consignment exceeds Rs. 50,000. However, if the movement doesn't involve an SEZ unit as the starting point, there's no need for an e-Way Bill.

Also Read: Step-by-Step Guide to the QRMP Scheme: Making GST Filing Easier

Validity of e-Way Bills for SEZ Movements:

Here's an additional point to remember: the validity period of e-Way Bills for movements originating from SEZs differs slightly:

  • One day for movement up to 200 kilometers.

  • Two days for movement exceeding 200 kilometers.

It's important to note that these validity periods can be extended as per regulations. Make sure to stay updated on any changes to ensure compliance.

Remember: It's always best to stay updated on the latest regulations and consult with a tax professional for specific guidance related to your SEZ operations.


1. How are intra-unit transfers within an SEZ treated for GST?

Intra-unit transfers of goods or services between different units within the same SEZ are generally considered exempt from GST. This simplifies the internal operations of companies functioning within the SEZ.

2. What documents are required for movement of goods from an SEZ?

In addition to the e-Way Bill (if applicable), the specific documents required for moving goods from an SEZ can vary depending on the nature of the goods and the destination. However, some common documents may include:

  • Bill of lading (for sea or air freight)

  • Invoice or purchase order

  • Packing list

  • Declaration from the SEZ unit

  • Export declaration (if applicable)

It's important to consult with customs authorities or a logistics provider to ensure you have all the necessary documentation for a smooth movement of goods.

3. Are there any specific penalties for non-compliance with e-Way Bill rules in SEZs?

Yes, non-compliance with e-Way Bill rules can attract penalties in SEZs, similar to other parts of India. The specific penalty amount can vary depending on the distance the goods are being transported without a valid e-Way Bill. Additionally, there could be delays in the movement of goods and potential seizure by authorities.

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