IS TECH GST’S ACHILLES HEEL?

PCQuest - - CONTENTS -

Ihad a ter­ri­ble fight with my friend last night. He had posted the fol­low­ing mes­sage on FB. “Your pe­riod won’t be taxed now. Keep men­stru­at­ing. Stall pop­u­la­tion ex­plode”. I felt not only was the mes­sage in bad taste, but it was also a sar­cas­tic way to look at the brouhaha cre­ated in the last one year over ini­tially 28% GST im­posed on san­i­tary pads (it was re­duced lat­ers) and which fi­nally the GST Coun­cil waived off last month.

While my friend later apol­o­gized (not just to me but thou­sands of fe­males) what this re­minded me was the tremen­dous im­pact GST had made in our lives and also pre­cisely in the lives of the busi­ness fra­ter­nity across In­dia (es­pe­cially be­cause of anom­alies like high­est GST on nap­kins). While it is be­yond the scope of PC Quest to dis­cuss and de­lib­er­ate on the mer­its and de­mer­its of GST, one of the big­gest chal­lenges has been the func­tion­ing of the tech­nol­ogy in­fra­struc­ture provider Goods and Ser­vices Tax Net­work (GSTN).

Role of GSTN

Goods and Ser­vices Tax Net­work (GSTN) is a Sec­tion 8 (under new com­pa­nies Act, not for profit com­pa­nies are gov­erned under sec­tion 8), non-gov­ern­ment, pri­vate lim­ited com­pany. In­sti­tuted in March 2013, the Compa- ny has been set up pri­mar­ily to pro­vide IT in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices to the Central and State Gov­ern­ments, tax pay­ers and other stake­hold­ers for im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Goods and Ser­vices Tax (GST). The Gov­ern­ment of In­dia holds 24.5% eq­uity in GSTN and all States of the In­dian Union, in­clud­ing NCT.

GSTN is also work­ing on pre­par­ing back of­fice func­tion­al­i­ties for tax of­fi­cers of 27 States/ UTs to per­form op­er­a­tions such as as­sess­ment and ad­ju­di­ca­tion, appeal and au­dit, among others.

In its his­toric first year of im­ple­men­ta­tion, the am­bi­tious Goods & Ser­vices Tax wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant jump in its ac­tive tax­payer base, with the num­ber of tax­pay­ers reg­is­tered with the GST sys­tem jump­ing to over 1.12 crore from an ini­tial 63.76 lakhs.

At a spe­cial me­dia brief­ing to mark one year of the his­toric in­di­rect tax re­form, Goods & Ser­vices Net­work ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion over the per­for­mance of the IT in­fra­struc­ture of the new tax regime and in­di­cated that more steps are on the anvil to im­prove user ex­pe­ri­ence and user in­ter­face.

With the GST sys­tem run­ning ef­fi­ciently, the GSTN is now turn­ing its at­ten­tion to­wards im­prov­ing user in­ter­face, sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of fil­ing, im­prov­ing of er­ror mes­sages and de­vis­ing tools and method­olo­gies to help tax

au­thor­i­ties im­prove tax com­pli­ance.

Go­ing for­ward in the next phase of the GST cy­cle, the gov­ern­ment will have to work to­wards mak­ing com­pli­ance sim­pler so that the re­sul­tant ben­e­fits can be felt by both the tax pay­ers as well as the gov­ern­ment. Tak­ing key learn­ings from the last 1 year, en­sur­ing ad­e­quate time is al­lot­ted to sta­bi­lize the tech­nol­ogy back­bone, pro­vid­ing re­quired clar­ity and spread­ing aware­ness among key stake­hold­ers will boost con­fi­dence and build morale in the econ­omy.

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