Posted on behalf of Sundeep Gupta, Partner - Compliance, Indirect Tax, ASA & Associates LLP
India had another tryst with freedom, though of a different kind, at the midnight hour on July 1, 2017. Freedom from multiplicity of taxes, as Goods and Services Tax (‘GST’) emerged, subsuming 17 different taxes on goods and/or services. The one nation one tax dream became a reality.
It has been 133 days today on November 10 and nothing less than a rollercoaster ride for GST, having its ups and downs, the screams and the excitement, the despair and joy, all rolled into one. Different sections of the society having different views on the subject, one cannot deny that GST was the need of the hour for India and the economy. Having said that, the implementation thereof has left many a mouth gaping.
Starting off well on July 1, the potholes and the bumps started appearing soon after. Exporters were left high and dry as their working capital started drying up as refund mechanisms were not activated yet. Documentation requirements for complex business transactions proved to be cumbersome and the ambiguity in the laws added to the confusion. Compliances in the form of monthly return filing became a nightmare as the government site crashed more often that it worked due to the overload of filings which the system was not capable of handling. Multiplicity of rates added to the problems of the consumers and business houses alike. And of course, many utilities of the GST online system were not activated which left the business houses flummoxed.
Having said that, the transition provisions made sure the input tax credit sitting in the books as on June 30 was happily carried forward. The problems of dealing with one law as against 17 laws earlier also had its share of smiles. And the best part, I would say, was the receptive attitude of the Government and the massive outreach it successfully attempted. The problems dealt with swiftly and efficiently and the voice of the industry heard. Processes are continuously being streamlined, ensuring the tax payers are not penalized for no fault of theirs. The GST Council has been frequently meeting and resolving issues expeditiously. In its 23rd meeting held today, the Council has taken rather significant decisions to assist the implementation and bring ease of compliances to the taxpayers. A sigh of relief, certainly.
It is easy to criticize. But considering the geo-political diversity, GST is a reform of a magnitude unparalleled in the history of independent India. We must give it time and be patient. It will certainly be the next big leap of the Indian economy supported by the strong will of the Government to make it happen. And the Government is going all guns blazing to make sure it does happen.