GSTN Crit­i­cism: Fair or Un­fair?

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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.

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