Role of Technology in GST 2.0

Goods and Service Tax has been rolled out in India from 1st July 2017, and now it is about 28 months, and during this period, we have seen a lot of changes being announced by the Government. The roll out of GST is dubbed to be the largest reform after Independence, but in reality, it is a business process reform as the trade and industry have to change their business process, and also, the Department has adopted technology and started doing data analytics to find out the errant taxpayers. All these are the things of the past,  there are a lot of changes being announced, and for that, the trade and industry have adopted to them else they will receive the same as a shocker like the roll out of GST or matching of invoices for availing the input tax credit.

As we are in the era of digitization from banking to day to day payments, if we do not embrace technology, we will be missing the bus, and it will impact the top line and bottom line of our business. In GST, very important changes are announced, and some of them are already effective some or going to be rolled out in 2020. The areas in which technology can help us to run our business smoothly and without

Matching for availing input tax credit

One of the major changes seen in GST is in the Return filing process. In the erstwhile tax regimes, the filing of returns was done manually or in some cases, filed electronically. There was no validation between the suppliers’ returns and the buyers’ returns, but in GST, it is implemented as the Government was to weed out the black sheep from the system. Matching was part of the GST law and the return formats, but it has to be deferred as small taxpayers were not used to it and did not have the know-how of doing the same. Now the same has been made effective from 9th Oct 2019 through Notification No 49 – Central Tax. The taxpayer is eligible to take input tax credit only based on the supplies filing of GST Returns. Invoices uploaded by the supplier has to be matched with the buyers purchase register, this can be done manually if the number of transactions is less as in case of small traders but in case of medium to large organizations where there are thousands of purchase invoices and multiple GST Registration Numbers, matching manually is a challenge, technology can adopt us the do this job seamlessly. There are various solutions available in the market where the GSTR – 2A data can be imported using the API’s and then uploading the purchase register with the relevant data, matching will be done seamlessly and accurately.

Adoption of technology for this activity not only saves time but also safeguards the organizations from paying interest and penalty on account of availing input tax credit wrongly due to human errors.

e-invoice

Tax evasion is one of the biggest challenges which the Governments face across the globe, and as part of it, many of them have adopted/implemented e-invoicing. If technology is adopted, e-invoicing is very simple. The suppliers will generate the tax invoice in his system and send the data through APIs (without human intervention) to the Invoice Registration Portal (IRP), and once the IRP validates the data, a unique number is generated and sent back. The same is imported, and the tax invoice can be printed. All these activities take place with the help of technology and happen in a matter of a few seconds. It will ensure that there are no disruptions in the business process; alternatively the taxpayers can upload the data manually on the IRP, but there will be room for data entry and human errors; this will lead to another set of compliance issues.

IRP not only generates the IRN but also shares the data with the supplier and updates in Anx -2, updates the Anx- 1 of the supplier, and also generates the Part – A of the e-waybill. In a nutshell, the adoption of technology for one activity has resulted in the accomplishment of three different tasks.

e-invoice is being rolled out from 1st Jan 2020 voluntarily and for B2B transactions, with matching in place for availing input tax credit, this makes the life of taxpayers very easy if the technology is adopted and taxpayers start issuing e-invoices.

New Returns

As a part of the simplification of the GSTR Return filing process, the Government has consolidated multiple returns into a single return with annexures. This is a welcome move, but again, this requires some changes in the business process and the way transactions are recorded.

The major shift we have seen in GST is filing of returns electronically and reporting of transaction data, but with the new format for GST returns, the Government is going one step ahead and is asking the taxpayers to report the same at the HSN level. It means that the taxpayers have to start filing the returns at the invoice line level or group at the HSN level if there are multiple lines on the invoice with the same HSN. This activity cannot be done manually, and for this, digitalization is required, and there are no exceptions for filing. The only exception is for the periodicity of return filling but not for the data. To make the life of MSME’s simple and easier before the rollout GST, the Government has shortlisted and validated free accounting software for MSME to adopt them.

Entering the data manually will only complicate the process and gives room for human and data entry errors. As the new returns are applicable from 1st April 2020, the taxpayers should have a plan for the adoption of digital ways for the issue of tax invoices so that the return filing is accurate and duplication of work is avoided.

GST Audit / Annual Returns

Every taxpayer who has to file the GST Annual Return GST Audit, the data to be uploaded in the returns are at a micro-level. Being the initial years of rollout of GST, many of the taxpayers are not having the data required for filing of the GST Annual Return. To give legroom for the taxpayers, the Government has relaxed the requirements for the first two years, but going forward, the micro-level data has to be uploaded.

The data has to be captured at the transaction creation time only, and it cannot be done as a post-mortem activity. For the data to be in place, again, digitalization is the only solution. This will help in the maintenance of the books of accounts easily and being GST compliant. For this, the taxpayers have to revisit their ledgers/chart of accounts and create new once wherever necessary, so that the transactional data is updated accordingly.

Apart from the ledgers, the HSN summary and tax rate wise data also have to be uploaded; this is possible only if the taxpayers have a proper accounting system in place. For small taxpayers, it may not be a challenge, but for the MSMEs and the big taxpayers, it is going to be a challenge if necessary changes are not incorporated in the accounting packages / ERP.

As the compliance requirements are stringent and mandatory, the taxpayers have to adapt to the new age technologies and start doing business. The adoption of technology helps them to concentrate on their core business areas rather than spending productive time on compliance work. We as professionals, have to guide the taxpayer accordingly and help them in the technology adoption. Things can be done without technology, but they will consume a lot of time and effort. As business is slowly moving from the unorganized sector to the organized sector, there will be some teething troubles, and we should join hands together for the transformation to happen smoothly.

Disclaimer

Any views or opinions represented above are personal and belong solely to the author and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the author may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity unless explicitly stated. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual.

This article is published in Souvenir released in the Southern Regional Cost Convention held in Chennai in Nov 2019.

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