For exporters in India, receiving cross-border payments from international buyers can often be a daunting experience. What adds to this complexity is the post-payment process of obtaining the FIRA, foreign inward remittance advice.
Over the years, this document has gone through a few regulatory and operational changes, and can be quite confusing for the exporter. This article aims to clear the air around the FIRA, why exporters need it and how they can get one.
Why does the exporter need it?
Before getting into details of what it is, first, why should the exporter care about this? This document is critical for the exporter for a few reasons -
- Claim tax incentives
- Claim promotion incentives granted for specific exports under various schemes like SEIS (Services Exports from India Scheme), MEIS (Merchandise Exports from India Scheme), etc.
- General record to evidence that exports provided have been realised
A little background…
FIRC stands for Foreign Inward Remittance Certificate, which acts as a proof of foreign inward payment. Prior to 2016, this document was issued by banks on secured pre-printed stationery. For the exporter, this was the official proof of receiving money against the exports of goods/software/service. As described earlier, this document is then produced to the tax department to claim export tax incentives as well as to banks / RBI to confirm that money has been realised against their exports.
From FIRC to FIRA
Around 2016, RBI introduced a system, EDPMS (exports data processing management system) to digitally record all exports data. Put simply, EDPMS is the foundational platform operated by RBI which records two-way data.
- Goods exports data (Shipping bills) recorded by customs at port locations and Software exports data (SOFTEX) recorded by Software Technology Parks of India
- Export Payments recorded by AD bank that received the Foreign Exchange
With the introduction of EDPMS, the FEDAI issued guidelines to banks to -
- Issue physical FIRCs only for capital account transactions e.g., FDI / FII inwards
- Discontinue physical FIRCs for export inwards and instead generate IRM (Inward Remittance) number on EDPMS system
Accordingly, for export inwards, banks started issuing the FIRA (Foreign Inward Remittance Advice) to the exporter, which is a document on bank’s letterhead consisting of details such as exporter name, export amount, INR amount, credit date, etc. FIRA is sometimes interchangeably referred to as FIRS. The FIRA is typically an on-demand process at most banks and even fintech platforms, and can be hard to get, often requiring many follow-ups.
Skydo simplifies this process and makes the FIRA available automatically for each export payment received at no extra cost.
What then is e-FIRC?
Like IRM, the exporter’s bank (Bank X) can also issue an e-FIRC on EDPMS. This is needed typically in cases, where the exporter uses a different bank (Bank Y) for adjustment of export documents. In this case, they can submit the e-FIRC from Bank X to Bank Y, for it to close the Shipping Bill (in case of goods) or SOFTEX (for others) on EDPMS.
Here is a quick summary of the terms for reference.
Discontinued post 2016 for export inwards; issued only for FDI/FII inwards
FIRA / FIRS / payment advice
Facilitated by Skydo or other payment company
Generated by exporter’s bank on EDPMS
Generated by exporter’s bank on EDPMS, where export documents are adjusted with a different bank
If you are an exporter of Goods/Software (under STPI), it is likely your exports are getting registered on EDPMS. You can use this simple decision tree to help you navigate through which of these documents to look for and under what scenario.
Likewise, if your exports are in the nature of services, please check with your CA or bank on which document is needed.
FEDAI circular SPL-04/2016 dated April 21, 2016.
RBI circular RBI/2015-16/414 A.P. (DIR Series) Circular number 74 dated May 26, 2016.
FEDAI circular SPL-09/2016 dated June 08, 2016.
FEDAI circular Letter number 16/2016 dated October 17, 2016