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Why GSTN's real test starts now

July 31, 2017 14:02 IST

'There have been almost 900,000 new enrolments in just 25-odd days.'

'Issues relating to small taxpayers and connectivity are no issues at all -- our people have found solutions for these.'

Navin Kumar, bottom, left, does not look tense, despite formal roll-out of uploading of invoices for all Goods and Services Tax (GST) assessees.

The GST Network (GSTN) chairman speaks to Dilasha Seth and Indivjal Dhasmana on various aspects of the new regime.


Image: A supporter shows off his unique way of backing the new tax measure. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

How is the invoice uploading progressing?

The process started from June 15 but not for the general public. Initially, it was open for Suvidha Providers, people who were part of the beta testing, and some tax officers.

Recently it opened for all. We are looking at the functionality of invoice upload, whether things work as intended.

If there are problems, we make corrections. At least 4,000-5,000 people are there.

Another purpose was to see how GSPs (GST Suvidha Providers) are working, as all big tax-payers will be coming through these.

We had a meeting with them. We found they had prepared everything but connectivity to GST had not materialised.

This have to come through ISPs (Internet Service Providers), a commercial arrangement made by them. We are facilitating this, so that everything is okay.

Small and medium enterprises and traders are saying they face difficulty in registration.

I have not understood this. These are all part of the eight million registered under the old indirect taxation system and they have been filing returns for the past 10 years.

Some of them say they tried logging in but details of other assessees came up.

That happens only when there is a tax practitioner feeding data for many people.

If entering data for more than one person on the same browser in the same session, there is a procedure for that.

When you connect to the portal, files are downloaded on the computer, called cookies. All the data gets stored here before going to the website.

So, when you finish with the first person and start entering data of the second person, and have not cleared cookies over here, the same data will come.

The option is to override the first one and then upload for the second person.

So, the issue is how the computer is being handled and not at our end. These are not concerns of only small and medium traders, anyone could encounter these. There is a procedure to handle data.

Small and medium entities and persons also say they do not have connectivity, electricity, and so how can they operate computers?

How were these eight million filing returns under the old taxation system? Under that, 6.7-6.8 million people were only under state-level VAT (value added tax).

Under the VAT regime, 37 per cent of taxpayers were below a threshold. That threshold was only Rs 500,000; those below had registered voluntarily.

What used to happen was that SMEs and persons were filing returns even under that system and somebody was helping them.

When you go for purchasing a house, do you know how to build a house, how to paint, how to do electrification? You don't.

You hire those who know. Similarly, for tax filing, if you know tax laws, you know computers, you do it for yourself. Others don't do tax filing themselves, they take the help of those who know.

Under VAT, manual returns were also filed.

In which state? There is no manual filing. In VAT, the Union government started digitalisation of commercial taxes way back in 2005.

There was a problem in the beginning but people slowly learnt how to do this.

If you take the case of a backward state such as Jharkhand, return filing was 100 per cent online, whether for VAT, excise duty or service tax.

These issues relating to small taxpayers and connectivity are no issues at all -- our people have found solutions for these.

But, people are finding it difficult to upload documents for registration.

Do you know the number of registrations on GSTN? Almost 900,000 new enrolments (those not there under the old taxation system) in 25-odd days.

How are they filing, if there are problems?  When we did our calculations of how many new assessees would register under GST, we found there were eight million under the old system and there had been a four to five per cent annual increase in the base.

Five per cent of eight million comes to 400,000 assessees in a year but we have almost 900,000 in 25-odd days.

What type of problems are being told to you through the call centres you have set up?

The highest number of calls being received are for use of the digital signature certificate (DSC).

Companies are mandated by law that they file electronic returns only through use of DSC.

To do so, a step-by-step procedure is given in our user manual. You have to download a software, register your DSC on the portal and ensure you have filled the name of the authorised signatory in the application form.

Of eight million registrants in the old system, there were only 500,000 companies. However, the assessees which have migrated to GSTN by using DSC are  2.3 mn. How? They read the manual.

How many calls at the centres?

Around 10,000 every day.

Will your real test start with invoice-wise return filing from September?

No, it will start with uploading of the invoices. That is what we are starting now, that people upload even before filing of returns.

If that happens, people take our advice, it will be good for them, it will be good for us.

How much tax payments have been made under GST so far?

Taxes are paid with returns. But, some taxes have come from, say, IGST on imports or from instances where some tax officer has caught someone not paying taxes.

These are around Rs 10 crore.

A gross figure, the input tax credit being adjusted?

A gross figure.

Could we make an assessment from this figure about growth in taxes under GST?

No, the actual taxes paid will come from interim return filing, from next month. This is not an indication of tax collections but stray payments.

Dilasha Seth and Indivjal Dhasmana
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