New Delhi, October 31, 2017
The government is considering a proposal to tweak the way people file their goods and services tax (GST) returns.
The move, to customise the form as per the varying requirements of the taxpayer, is expected to significantly simplify the filing process which has been criticised for being complex and mired with glitches.
In an interview to ET, Ajay Bhushan Pandey, the newly-appointed chairman of the GST Network (GSTN), said instead of having a standard form for everyone, users can be asked a few questions upon signing in and then the bestsuited form can be displayed as per their transactions and nature of business. “We are looking at these options so that the forms can be simpler," he said.
The form in the system can be dynamically generated and only the relevant portions which are applicable to a particular dealer will be displayed so that he won't have any difficulty in filing the returns, he said. “The ultimate aim is that the small tax payers should be able to file the returns without much assistance from outside," added Pandey , who is also the CEO of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which administers the Aadhaar project.
So far, 45 lakh people have filed GSTR 3B for the month of September, while 56 lakh and 52 lakh have filed their returns for July and August, respectively .
Despite the initial teething troubles, 56 lakh dealers have filed returns on the GSTN portal, Pandey said. “It means that 56 lakh people somehow know how to file the returns on a new system. So progressively more and more people will be able to come on the platform." The government has also started an exercise to collect feedback and proactively reach out to people who have filed the returns to understand the nature of their concerns so that they can be rectified. Pandey said as a first step, forms have to be simplified.
For instance, someone who doesn't have an export component in his business should not have to deal with export-related columns, or someone who doesn't have any interstate transactions should not see the related questions. “A very simple form can be very dynamically generated, depending upon the nature of the transactions. Suppose if I have not made any transaction in a month, then I should have to just press a button to file my return, instead of filling zero or nil at multiple places," Pandey said.
The initial hiccups in the system happened because people were not used to the new system, he said. Since the GST launch on July 1, the government has taken several measures to alter the tax structure as well as the filing process in order to make it less tedious for business entities to file their returns. “There are 35 states and union territories apart from service tax and excise tax departments; so almost 37 systems had to migrate to one platform. With 90 lakh dealers and thousands of tax officials along with so many tax practitioners - naturally if you bring any change like this, people might face certain difficulties initially," Pandey said. Most of the people who are required to pay the taxes have already filed the returns, he said. The government is also discussing ways to reduce the periodicity of filings of returns.
Pratik Jain, leader-indirect tax at PwC India, said while it was a good idea to further simplify the form, the need of the hour was to stabilise the existing system before introducing any new changes. “The is sue currently is not too much complexity of the forms but the technical challenges experienced on GSTN. It might be better to focus on a thorough testing of GSTN to iron out current issues rather than introducing new forms, etc., which may take more time to stabilise," said Jain.
[The Economic Times]