GST Registration

GST on Advertising Services – ITC, Rates, HSN Code, Implications & Benefits

calendar23 Nov, 2023
timeReading Time: 15 Minutes
GST on Advertising Services

The implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) marks a shift from the existing taxation model, where the focus is on taxing the supply of goods or services rather than the traditional approach of taxing the manufacture or sale of goods or the provision of services. GST operates as a destination-based consumption tax, meaning that the tax is incurred by the State or Union Territory where the consumption occurs.

This tax system operates on a dual structure, with both the Centre and States concurrently imposing taxes on a shared tax base.

The advent of GST on advertising services carries considerable significance, bringing about a paradigm shift in taxation dynamics. The implementation of GST replaces a multitude of indirect taxes, presenting a unified tax structure that streamlines compliance processes for both advertisers and publishers.

One significant impact is the enhanced clarity in the GST on advertising services; this clarity is achieved by categorising these services based on the medium through which they are delivered, specifically distinguishing between digital and print media. This targeted approach acknowledges the unique nature of each advertising avenue and ensures a more precise tax application.

The provision of input tax credit is a pivotal aspect of GST, offering businesses the opportunity to offset taxes paid on inputs. This mechanism minimises tax cascading, fostering more efficient cost management within an industry where expenditures on diverse elements, such as digital and print media, are integral.

Evolution of Taxation in the Advertising Sector

Over the years, the Indian economy transitioned from being a controlled sellers’ market to a buyers’ market. With the opening of the economy came heightened competition and an increased demand for advertising. Newspapers, publications, and television each accounted for 13% of all advertising expenditures. Digital media held a share of 14.5%, while radio, outdoor advertising, and the internet were all in single digits, with digital media expected to experience the fastest growth. The total advertising market, projected to be valued at $16.6 billion, reflected these dynamics by the end of 2021.

Taxability of Advertising Sector pre-GST:

Before the Goods and Services Tax (GST) advent, a Service Tax was implemented on all services (excluding those on the negative list) starting from July 1, 2012. This entailed the taxation of various facets of advertising services, with certain exceptions, such as the sale of space or time for advertisements in specific instances. Initially, services like the sale of time slots during television programs and space on hoardings were exempt from tax. However, a pivotal shift occurred on October 1, 2014, with amendments to the negative list, narrowing down non-taxable elements to the sale of space in print media. Consequently, all other arrangements involving the sale of space or time were brought under the ambit of service tax.

Definitions Pertaining to GST on Advertisement Services:

The GST Act does not explicitly define the terms “advertisement” and “advertising agency.” However, their meanings can be derived from Section 65(2) of the Finance Act, 1994. According to this section, “advertisement” encompasses a broad spectrum and includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper, document, hoarding, or any other audio or visual representation made by means of light, sound, smoke, or gas.

Furthermore, Section 65(3) of the Finance Act, 1994 elucidates the term “advertising agency.” It is defined as any person providing services related to making, preparing, displaying, or exhibiting advertisements. This definition is inclusive and extends to encompass an “advertising consultant” within its scope. In essence, an advertising agency, as per this definition, is an entity involved in various aspects of the advertisement creation and presentation process.

GST Charges on Different Advertising Platforms in India: An In-Depth Analysis

Advertising transactions involve a complex interplay between advertisers and publishers, with each type attracting specific Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates in India. Here’s a comprehensive exploration of how GST on advertising services is applied across various advertising platforms:

1.    Digital Media Advertising:

  • Nature: This pertains to advertisers promoting products or ideas on digital platforms such as websites, mobile applications, emails, or SMS.
  • GST Rate: The applicable GST rate for digital media advertising is 18 per cent.
  • Consider the scenario where a Website Owner sells advertising space on their website to a business entity, charging Rs 100,000 for the sale of this space, commonly known as a banner. In this case, the applicable Goods and Services Tax (GST) would be Rs 18,000, calculated at the rate of 18% on the transaction amount (100,000 x 18%).

2.    Print Media Advertising:

  • Nature: This involves the publication of advertisements in traditional print media channels like newspapers and magazines.
  • GST Rate: Advertising in print media is subject to a GST rate of five percent.
  • In the given example, a prominent newspaper publishing company sells advertising space on the front page of its newspaper to a business entity, with a charge of Rs 100,000 for the sale of this space. In this scenario, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) payable on the transaction would amount to Rs 5,000, calculated at the rate of 5% on the transaction amount (100,000 x 5%).

3.    Advertising through Agencies:

  • Approach: Advertisers may opt to engage advertising agencies instead of directly interacting with publishers.
  • Advertisement in Principal’s Capacity:
    • Print Media: GST is levied at a rate of 5 per cent.
    • Digital Media: The GST rate for advertising in digital media under this arrangement is 18 percent.
    • In the provided scenario, a newspaper publishing company sells advertising space on the front page of its newspaper to an Advertising Agency, charging Rs 100,000 for the sale of this space. In this instance, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) payable on the transaction would be Rs 5,000, calculated at the rate of 5% on the transaction amount (100,000 x 5%). Subsequently, when the Advertising Agency resells the same advertising space to a business entity at a higher price, say Rs 150,000, the GST payable on this resale transaction would amount to Rs 7,500. This is calculated at the rate of 5% on the increased transaction amount (150,000 x 5%).
  • Advertisement in Agent’s Capacity:
    • Print Media: The GST rate is set at 5 percent.
    • Digital Media: GST is applicable at 18 percent.
    • Commission Charges: In this scenario, the agent charges a commission and levies 18 per cent GST on the commission.

4.    Advertisement through Registered Person outside India:

  • Scenario: This scenario applies when advertising services are supplied by a party residing in a non-taxable territory to someone situated in a taxable territory.
  • GST Liability: The recipient in the taxable territory is responsible for paying GST on advertising services.
  • Under Section 5(3) of the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) Act, 2017, the reverse charge mechanism is applicable to specified goods and services. This includes any supply of service by an entity situated in a non-taxable territory to an entity located in a taxable territory, excluding non-taxable online recipients. In the case where Mr A procures advertisement services from M/s. HIJ, a person situated in a non-taxable territory, Mr A is obligated to fulfil the GST liability as the recipient of the service and remit it to the government.

Understanding the nuanced rates of GST on advertising services for different advertising avenues is crucial for both advertisers and publishers to ensure compliance with prevailing tax regulations in India. This detailed analysis aims to provide clarity on the diverse implications of GST on advertising services, facilitating informed decision-making for businesses involved in this dynamic industry.

Input Tax Credit (ITC) Eligibility of GST on Advertising Services

What is an Input Tax Credit?

Input tax credit refers to the GST paid by a registered entity on the purchase of goods or services intended for the furtherance of business. This credit allows the registered entity to offset the GST liability on the subsequent supply of goods or services.

For instance, let’s consider a manufacturing scenario. If a manufacturer acquires raw materials amounting to Rs. 10,000 and pays GST of Rs. 1,800 (18%), they can claim an input tax credit of Rs. 1,800. When the finished goods, valued at Rs. 15,000, are supplied with GST collected amounting to Rs. 2,700 (18%), the manufacturer can utilise the input tax credit of Rs. 1,800. Consequently, they only need to remit Rs. 900 as GST, effectively reducing the final tax liability. In essence, input tax credit facilitates a mechanism for businesses to alleviate their tax burden by accounting for the taxes paid on their purchases during the production process.

Who can claim ITC?

  • Only entities with a valid GST registration and those who have submitted their GSTR-2 returns are eligible to claim input tax credit (ITC).
  • The taxpayer must possess a tax invoice or debit note issued by the input service provider for the goods, services, or both for which they are claiming ITC.
  • The taxpayer must have received the goods, services, or both for which they are claiming input tax credit.
  • The supplier must have made the GST payment due to the government for the supplied goods or services.
  • Input tax credit can only be utilised when the final batch of goods is received, especially when goods are purchased in instalments.
  • If depreciation has been claimed on the tax of a capital good, no input tax credit is permitted for that capital good.
  • The registered taxpayer should pay the supplier within 180 days from the invoice date to be eligible to claim input tax credit.

Can advertising companies claim input tax credit (ITC)?

Advertising companies operating under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) framework are eligible to claim the credit for taxes paid on the acquisition of equipment and high-end electronic goods utilised for their business operations. This provision allows them to offset the tax paid on these purchases against their overall GST liability.

However, it’s important to note a specific limitation: advertising companies are not allowed to charge GST on advertising services provided, even in cases where advertisement shoots are conducted at remote locations where they lack a physical office presence. Despite this restriction on charging GST for certain services, these companies can still leverage ITC benefits for eligible inputs, contributing to the overall simplification of their tax liabilities under the GST system.

For instance, suppose an advertising agency registered in Maharashtra opts to shoot a commercial in the states of Jammu and Kashmir. In this scenario, they would bear significant expenses for accommodating the entire crew, and the hotel would apply both CGST and Jammu GST. However, the advertising agency, being registered in Maharashtra, would be unable to avail credit for the Jammu GST component. This limitation arises because they can only claim credit for IGST and CGST related to their home state (Maharashtra).

ITC Challenges in GST on Advertising Services

A significant challenge within the GST on advertising services framework involves the reconciliation process between the Input Tax Credit (ITC) claimed in the self-declared GSTR-3B, and the data reflected in the auto-generated GSTR-2A. Despite the GST Act’s emphasis on facilitating a smooth ITC flow, the government/department issues notice to taxpayers for discrepancies. GSTR-3B is a monthly mandatory self-declared tax summary that taxpayers must file. It provides a snapshot of the tax paid on outward supplies and the ITC claimed on inward supplies.

On the other hand, GSTR-2A is a dynamically generated purchase-related tax return. The GSTN portal automatically generates it for each recipient. As a seller files GSTR-I, the information is auto-populated into the recipient’s GSTR-2A. This includes details of goods and/or services purchased from the seller’s GSTR-I in a given month.

The discrepancy between claimed ITC in GSTR-3B and data in GSTR-2A has resulted in government notices to taxpayers, underscoring the need for improved alignment and accurate reporting within the GST system.

HSN Code for Advertising Services

Understanding HSN Codes and Their Significance in the GST System

HSN codes, or Harmonized System of Nomenclature codes, play a pivotal role in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) system, providing a standardised classification for goods globally. These codes are alphanumeric identifiers assigned to specific products, facilitating uniformity in product categorisation and tax determination.

In the GST system, HSN codes serve the following purposes:

  • Uniform Classification: HSN codes ensure a standardised and internationally recognised method for classifying goods. This harmonisation streamlines trade and simplifies the identification of products across borders.
  • Tax Rate Determination: The GST system employs HSN codes to determine the applicable tax rates for various goods. Each HSN code corresponds to a specific tax rate, enabling accurate and consistent taxation.
  • Ease of Compliance: Businesses use HSN codes while filing their GST returns. The codes provide a structured way to report transactions, making it easier for both businesses and tax authorities to understand and verify the nature of transactions.
  • Data Analysis: HSN codes facilitate effective data analysis for tax authorities. By categorising goods systematically, it becomes simpler for authorities to monitor trends, track compliance, and identify areas that may require attention.
  • International Trade Facilitation: HSN codes are globally recognised, making them valuable for international trade. They contribute to the smooth flow of goods across borders by providing a common language for product classification.

HSN Codes for Advertising and Digital Marketing Services

The HSN code 998361 is designated for “Advertising Services,” covering the general provision of advertising services. Additionally, the code 998366 pertains to the “Sale of other advertising space or time (except on commission),” while 998363 is specific to the “Sale of advertising space in print media (except on commission).”

However, due to the absence of a dedicated HSN code for digital marketing services, businesses often use the code 998313. This code was initially intended for “Information technology (IT) consulting and support services.” While it aligns broadly with digital services, including Social Media Marketing and SEO, it encompasses a broader spectrum of IT-related consulting and support.

Using the generalised code, 998313 allows businesses to comply with the GST framework. It’s advisable to stay vigilant for any updates to the HSN code system that may introduce specific codes for digital marketing services, ensuring accurate classification and regulatory compliance.

Importance of correctly applying HSN codes for accurate GST compliance

Accurate application of Harmonized System of Nomenclature (HSN) codes is paramount for precise Goods and Services Tax (GST) compliance. This is significant in several key aspects of taxation and business operations.

Correctly assigned HSN codes ensure the accurate calculation of applicable tax rates for goods and services. This, in turn, prevents the risk of underpayment or overpayment of taxes, which can have financial implications for businesses. Moreover, adhering to the correct HSN codes helps businesses avoid penalties and legal consequences that may arise from inaccurate tax calculations.

In terms of GST filing, the use of accurate HSN codes streamlines the process by allowing for easy and systematic categorisation of transactions. This simplifies the generation of GST returns, contributing to a smoother and more efficient compliance process. Accurate HSN coding also enhances transparency and reduces compliance challenges. It supports businesses in maintaining reliable financial records, promoting overall data accuracy. Additionally, precise HSN codes contribute to industry standardisation, providing a globally recognised classification system that fosters uniformity in reporting.

For tax authorities, accurate HSN codes facilitate effective data analysis. This allows authorities to monitor trends, track compliance, and identify areas that may require attention, contributing to a more efficient tax administration system. For businesses engaged in international trade, proper HSN coding is essential, preventing delays or complications in cross-border transactions.

Implications of Incorrect HSN Code Classification on GST Compliance

Incorrect classification of HSN codes in GST can lead to serious implications for businesses. It may result in inaccurate tax calculations, causing underpayment or overpayment of taxes and financial discrepancies. Businesses could face penalties and legal consequences, impacting their overall compliance standing. Filing GST returns becomes challenging, potentially causing delays and administrative issues. Inaccurate HSN codes may trigger GST audits, consuming time and resources. The financial impact extends to operational disruptions, affecting decision-making and investor confidence. For businesses engaged in international trade, incorrect HSN coding may lead to customs complications and delays in cross-border transactions. Accurate HSN code classification is crucial to avoid these repercussions and ensure smooth GST compliance.

Advantages of Adhering to Compliance of GST on Advertising Services

Adopting compliant practices of GST on advertising services yields numerous advantages for businesses, encompassing:

  • Reduced Tax Liability: Compliant practices of  GST on advertising services allow businesses to take advantage of Input Tax Credit (ITC), effectively reducing their overall GST liability. This financial benefit contributes to cost-effectiveness and improved profit margins.
  • Improved Financial Management: Ensuringcompliance with GST on advertising services goes hand in hand with proper accounting and tax management. Businesses can maintain transparent financial records, facilitating accurate reporting and strategic financial planning.
  • Enhanced Brand Reputation: Companies adhering to regulations of GST on advertising services are perceived as responsible and trustworthy by clients, partners, and consumers. A reputation for compliance fosters confidence in the business’s operations, contributing to a positive brand image.
  • Reduced Risk of Penalties: Compliant businesses mitigate the risk of penalties and legal complications. By adhering to the guidelines of GST on advertising services, businesses avoid regulatory fines and safeguard their financial standing. This preserves financial resources and prevents potential damage to the company’s reputation.

Thus, the benefits of compliant practices of GST on advertising services extend beyond mere regulatory adherence. They encompass financial advantages, improved brand perception, and risk mitigation. By integrating these practices into their operations, businesses in the advertising sector position themselves for sustained growth and positive relationships with stakeholders.

Best practices for businesses to ensure compliance with regulations of GST on advertising services

Ensuring compliance with regulations of GST on advertising services is crucial for businesses operating in the advertising sector. Here are some best practices to help businesses stay compliant with GST on advertising services:

  1. Correct Classification of Services: Accurately classify advertising services under the appropriate HSN (Harmonized System of Nomenclature) code to determine the correct tax rate.
  2. Understand Threshold Exemptions: Be aware of the threshold exemptions for GST on advertising services. Small businesses with turnovers below the specified threshold may be exempt or eligible for composition schemes.
  3. Documentation and Record-keeping: Maintain detailed records of all transactions, including invoices, receipts, and contracts related to advertising services. Proper documentation is essential for audits of GST on advertising services.
  4. Accurate Invoicing: Issue GST-compliant invoices containing all required details, such as GSTIN, HSN code, and a clear description of services provided.
  5. Timely Filing of GST Returns: Adhere to the deadlines for filing GST returns. Ensure that GSTR-1 (for outward supplies) and GSTR-3B (summary return) are filed on time.
  6. Input Tax Credit (ITC) Reconciliation: Regularly reconcile input tax credit with vendor invoices to ensure accurate and timely claims. This helps in avoiding discrepancies during audits.
  7. Understanding Reverse Charge Mechanism: Be aware of situations where the reverse charge mechanism applies, especially for services received from unregistered vendors. Comply with reverse charge provisions.
  8. Compliance with Place of Supply Rules: Understand and comply with the place of supply rules, especially in cases of cross-border advertising services, to determine the appropriate tax jurisdiction.
  9. GST Compliance Training: Train employees involved in financial transactions and compliance to stay updated on the regulations of GST on advertising services. Awareness is crucial for accurate compliance.
  10. Engage Professional Advice: Seek advice from tax professionals or consultants of GST on advertising services to ensure a thorough understanding of specific regulations applicable to the advertising sector.
  11. Regular Updates on GST Changes: Stay informed about any changes or updates in regulations of GST on advertising services. Regularly check official GST portals and government notifications for announcements.

Documentation requirements for businesses involved in advertising services

Businesses involved in advertising transactions need to maintain thorough documentation to ensure compliance with tax regulations and facilitate transparent financial processes. Here are key documentation requirements for such businesses:

  1. Invoice Records: Issue GST-compliant invoices for advertising services provided. Invoices should include details such as:
    • Name, address, and GSTIN of the supplier (advertising agency).
    • Name, address, and GSTIN of the recipient (client).
    • Unique invoice number and date.
    • Description of services provided.
    • HSN or SAC code for the services.
    • Quantity, unit price, and total value of services.
    • Applicable GST rates and amounts (CGST, SGST/UTGST, IGST).
  1. Receipts and Payment Records: Maintain records of receipts for payments received and payments made for advertising services. Clearly document the mode of payment and relevant transaction details.
  2. Contracts and Agreements: Keep copies of contracts or agreements between the advertising agency and clients. These documents should outline the scope of services, payment terms, and any specific conditions agreed upon.
  3. Proof of Delivery or Performance: Document proof of delivery or performance of advertising services. This may include evidence of the publication of ads, broadcasting schedules, or any other tangible proof of service delivery.
  4. Credit and Debit Notes: Issue credit or debit notes in case of adjustments to the invoice value, such as discounts, cancellations, or corrections. Ensure these notes comply with GST regulations.
  5. Input Tax Credit (ITC) Records: Maintain records of input tax credit availed on purchases related to advertising services. This includes invoices from vendors for goods and services used in the course of business.
  6. GST Returns: Keep copies of filed GST returns, including GSTR-1 (outward supplies) and GSTR-3B (summary return). These returns provide a comprehensive overview of transactions and tax liabilities.
  7. Reconciliation Statements: Regularly reconcile input tax credit and output tax liability to ensure accuracy in GST filings. Reconciliation statements help identify and rectify any discrepancies.
  8. Proof of Export or Import (if applicable): For cross-border advertising transactions, maintain documentation related to exports or imports. This may include shipping bills, export invoices, and customs-related documents.
  9. Place of Supply Documentation: Document the determination of the place of supply for advertising services, especially in cross-border transactions. This is essential for correctly applying CGST/SGST or IGST.
  10. Record of Reverse Charge Transactions: Keep records of transactions subject to reverse charge mechanisms. This includes details of services received from unregistered vendors.
  11. Employee Training Records: Maintain records of employee training on GST compliance. Ensure that employees involved in financial transactions are aware of relevant GST regulations on advertising services.
  12. Correspondence Records: Keep records of any correspondence with tax authorities, clients, or vendors related to GST matters.

Having a well-organized and comprehensive set of documentation is crucial for compliance, facilitating audits, resolving disputes, and ensuring smooth financial operations in the GST on advertising services.


In conclusion, navigating Goods and Services Tax (GST) regulations in the realm of advertising services requires a comprehensive understanding of Input Tax Credit (ITC), applicable rates, Harmonized System of Nomenclature (HSN) codes, as well as the associated implications and benefits. The utilisation of ITC stands as a pivotal aspect for businesses in the advertising sector, allowing them to offset taxes paid on inputs against their output tax liability. Careful consideration of ITC eligibility, especially in the context of inter-state supplies and reverse charge mechanisms, is essential for effective cost management and compliance.

The diverse tax rates applicable to different advertising platforms, such as digital media and print media, necessitate meticulous classification under the relevant HSN codes. Clear comprehension of these codes ensures accurate tax determination and facilitates streamlined compliance with GST regulations on advertising services.

Despite the challenges, there are distinct benefits to complying with the GST regulations on advertising services. These include transparency in financial operations, enhanced credibility with clients and authorities, and the ability to claim ITC for eligible expenses. Moreover, adherence to GST on advertising services guidelines positions businesses to navigate legal complexities, mitigate risks, and contribute to a more efficient and compliant advertising industry.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the current rate of GST on advertising services?

The current standard GST on advertising services is 18%. However, there are some exceptions:
Advertising through print media: 5%
Advertising through broadcasting media: 18%
Advertising through digital media: 18%

2. Are there any exemptions in GST on advertising services?

Yes, there are a few exemptions from GST on advertising services. These include:
Advertising services provided to the Government of India, state governments, or local authorities
Advertising services provided to educational institutions
Advertising services provided for charitable purposes

3. What is the GST rate for social media advertising?

The GST rate for social media advertising is 18%. This is because social media advertising is considered to be digital advertising.

4. Can businesses claim an Input Tax Credit (ITC) on advertising expenses?

Registered businesses under GST can claim ITC on goods and services used for their business purposes. This means that they can offset the GST paid on their inputs against the GST they charge on their outputs. However, ITC cannot be claimed on advertising expenses if the input is used for providing exempt supplies.

5. How does the Reverse Charge Mechanism (RCM) apply to advertising services?

The RCM is a mechanism under GST where the liability to pay GST is shifted from the supplier to the recipient of the goods or services. The RCM is applicable to certain types of transactions, including advertising services provided by an unregistered supplier to a registered supplier.

6. What is the difference between GST for digital advertising and traditional advertising?

The main difference between GST for digital advertising and traditional advertising is the rate. Traditional advertising, such as print and broadcast media advertising, is taxed at 5% or 18%, depending on the medium. Digital advertising, on the other hand, is always taxed at 18%.

7. How are advertising agencies supposed to invoice their clients under GST?

Advertising agencies are required to issue GST-compliant invoices to their clients. The invoice must include the following information:
GSTIN (Goods and Services Tax Identification Number) of both the supplier and the recipient
Name and address of both the supplier and the recipient
Description of the goods or services
HSN code of the goods or services
Quantity of goods or services
Rate of GST
Amount of GST
Total amount payable

8. Are there special GST provisions for international advertising clients or services?

Yes, there are special GST provisions for international advertising clients or services. If an advertising agency provides services to an overseas client, the GST rate is 0%. However, the agency must collect and deposit GST if the client is located in India.

9. What happens in case of non-compliance or incorrect filing of GST on advertising services?

Non-compliance or incorrect GST filing can lead to penalties, interest, and other legal consequences. The severity of the penalties depends on the nature of the non-compliance.

10. Is GST applicable on free promotional ads or complimentary advertising services?

Yes, GST is applicable on free promotional ads or complimentary advertising services. The rationale behind this is that these services have an economic value, even though they are not charged for.

11. How do bundled advertising services (e.g., design, campaign management, and media buying) get taxed under GST?

Bundled advertising services are taxed under GST at the rate applicable to the predominant service in the bundle. For example, if a bundle of services includes design, campaign management, and media buying, and the predominant service is media buying, then the entire bundle would be taxed at 18%.

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