IS TECH GST’S ACHILLES HEEL?
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.