GSTN Criticism: Fair or Unfair?
The GSTN though has had its own share of criticism, both fairly and unfairly. Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia has admitted that the technology failed a smooth transition from the previous indirect tax regime to the Goods and Service Tax. However he clarified that it does not mean that the people who work there (at GSTN) are not doing their job.
“Since we had to meet a certain deadline, we needed to hurry up the process. Somewhere, I made a reference about the technology failing us but that does not mean that the people in the GSTN failed us. Marvellous people work in the GSTN and despite their efforts, the GSTN still fails us.”
The GST was rolled out last year on July 1. Recently, FICCI conducted a survey of enterprises on completion
of one year of GST and their experience post-GST implementation. According to the survey, 59%of the respondents mentioned that they were not satisfied with the capability of the GSTN portal. In fact, 96% respondents felt that improvements were required in the working of the portal. Respondents of the survey pointed out issues with the robustness and volume handling capacity of the GST Portal. Problems like delayed reflection of updated data as well as payments, absence of effective mechanism to resolve issues, inability to make corrections after submission of returns in case of errors were highlighted.
Earlier, Telangana Principal Secretary (Commercial Taxes and Excise) Somesh Kumar, too, raised certain technological glitches in the GST network that need to be resolved. He said: ‘’ Though there are issues and concerns like invoice- matching which was one of the highlights of GST, the GST network has not been able to provide this facility. We also want to do lot of data analytics in Telangana but we do not get the full data as we would like from the GSTN.” Somesh Kumar further said that “if there is any criticism of GST it is not on GST per se, it is on GSTN network, and its inability to respond to various problems”.
GSTN CEO Prakash Kumar admits that it has been a challenging journey. The company was incorporated in 2013 and the initial years were spent in staffing and hiring the technology provider. “Though we picked Infosys in 2015, the work started in earnest only after the draft GST law was released in June 2016. We prepared all our systems based on this draft law. But in March 2017, the laws were modified in a big way. That was a big setback for us. We had to reorient a lot of things and make a lot of changes. We had initially designed one registration form for all taxpayers irrespective of whether they are composition dealers or inter-state dealers. But now we have separate forms. Similar was the case for return forms where major changes were made quite late. This forced us to release the forms in a phased manner,” informs Kumar.
The GST Council is again considering changing the return forms. GSTN under Kumar has suggested to the government that they should be given sufficient time to develop, test and then make them available to everyone. This will ensure that when they start using the system, there will be no surprises. It is the entire ecosystem which has to make the changes including the accountant software companies, GSPs (GST suvidha providers) and the taxpayers. They also have to be given time.
“We knew that for any software development, one has to give sufficient time between the development process and implementation. But unfortunately, we had time pressure. Because the Constitution was amended, the government had to bring in GST before September 2017. Ideally, the GST laws should have been brought in earlier. But one has to appreciate that the centre and the states were abdicating their taxation rights. So it was bound to take time.” In fact, Kumar compares building a complex software like GST with building a high rise building like Burj Khalifa in Dubai.