Well, it’s the season of Jingle bells, the season of cold mornings and even colder evenings and a month-long greeting season. Even with temperatures hitting an all-time low and the nation waking up to piping hot coffee, not all’s well this winter 2017-18.
Those dealing with the goods and services tax (GST) unequivocally vouch that it is one of the most uncertain and doubt-ridden Christmas and New Year eve that the country is going to witness and have kept their fingers crossed over what’s in store in the magic bag of Arun Jaitley in the upcoming Budget for the FY 2018-19.
Twice in the past two months has the nation gone into a tizzy over the GST council meetings. Day-long council meetings send trade and industry into weeks of frenzy and commotion. The scenario almost just resembles an emergency with notifications being released left, right and center. Some are quite reformative, others extremely relieving and few, flabbergasting, indeed.
All in all, it can be indisputably concluded that six months into GST, the dust has not yet settled and rather is stirring up new whirlpools in the ocean of statutes, notifications, circulars and orders. Just a month ago, there were as many as 17 notifications released overnight.
- 177 goods underwent rate revamp from 28% to as low as 12% or 18%;
- Due dates of returns got a complete overhaul -- Some deferred indefinitely, while all others due on 31 December 2017.
- Trade and industry heaved a sigh of relief with unregistered vendor reverse charge being sent on a 6-month holiday till 31 March 2018.
- Suppliers of goods are now able to better use their advances with GST no longer payable on advances;
- Exporters were meant to have field day with refund process enabled online;
- Concessional rate clearances have greatly lifted the spirits of merchant exporters also aiming to give the forex reserves the much-needed boost.
With some of the above changes being the need of the hour, the council did earn some brownie points. However, it received brickbats for the very same.
- Government continues to flounder on the technological upgradation front.
- Exporters are not able to make the best use of the refund process with major ambiguities on the application and processing end;
- Such a massive rate revision sent ERPs hanging and material masters needing a complete overhaul;
- Deferring the real-time credit matching returns has quintessentially questioned very founding principle of India GST;
- There are continuous murmurs of e-way bill system being reintroduced centrally for the whole nation. Implies, GST is welcoming the “Inspector Raj” and “Checkpost Raj” with open arms. Days wouldn’t then be too far where one can yet again spot truck loads goods awaiting clearance at the check posts;
For an entrepreneur, it becomes increasingly taxing to keep track of such huge number of changes being brought in on a daily basis. Thereby, needlessly increasing the compliance costs. While the nation found it hard going in the initial months of July and August, October and November were also not too different. The council has met 5 times post GST implementation and every meeting, the nation waited with bated breath for its conclusions and proposed changes.
India GST is no mere ball game. It has been still evolving. The changes brought about definitely do send the needed signals that the government is listening to the concerns of trade and industry and that the government is putting in the much-needed time, thought and consideration into arriving at progressive solutions to the difficulties of business. Yet, India GST will surely take time to come along its own way.
It’s the season of ringing in new year, time to make those resolutions, try your best to keep them up and working. And it’s the same time to see a ray of hope that come new year come new GST amendments; come newer reliefs and better days of tax compliances. After all, India’s tryst with GST is no mean a feat and let’s hope the new year ushers in “Ease of Doing Business”. And, expect the Finance Minister to smoothen the bumpy road in his Budget to be presented on February 1. Those offering services need to be heard and their challenges as regards payment of GST must be addressed as soon as possible, for the contribution of service sector too is enormous.