Demystifying Collection of Tax at Source under the Model GST Law

e-commerce is a booming industry and this is enabling the local and small sellers to sell their products in wider markets and from the consumer perspective he is having a wide range of products at his door step at a competitive price.  In this process, the buyer and seller are getting benefited and in between the e-commerce operator who does not own any stocks but sells on behalf of the seller by providing his infrastructure and reach, for this services the e-commerce operator charges some amount from the seller. So far it is so good but the real issue starts from the taxman’s perspective.  In the whole game, the e-commerce operator issues an invoice on behalf of the seller to the buyer and on this respective taxes are collected. Now the question raised by the taxman is the transaction between the e-commerce operator and the seller is taxable, there are various disputes on this matter and the interpretation is even more complex like does the transaction between the e-commerce operator and the seller amounts to sale of goods and VAT is applicable on the commission or is it a service or is it a composite contract. Various state governments have taken different views on the same and started collecting VAT.

Now let’s see what is there in the store in Model GST Law for the e-commerce. Section 43B lays down the definitions in context to the above services.

Aggregator has been clearly defined in the sub-section ( a)  of Section 43B. it literally nails down who is an aggregator, it says any person who provides services either by an application or communication device which enables a buyer and seller to connect and procure goods or services under any brand / trade name is termed as an aggregator. This means that cab operators like Ola or Uber or selling of goods electronically like Amazon, Flipkart or food delivery mobile applications like Swiggy or Tinmen all are defined as aggregators. And they are required to take registration under GST as per Section 19 of the Model GST Law.

Sub-section (b) defines what is brand or trade name clearly. It says any brand or trade name, registered or not, for using a name or mark or symbol or monogram or writing or logo or symbol or signature which is used for service or furtherance of business. That means all the brand / trademarks are also under the purview of the GST.

Sub-section (c) defines what is branded service. It says branded service is service which is supplied by an e-commerce operator under his name whether registered or unregistered is a branded service like Amazon or Flipkart etc.

The final nail in the coffin is given in Sub-section (d), where it defined what is electronic commerce. It did not spare a word which used in the today’s’ internet era like download, File transfer, shopping cart, electronic data interchange (EDI), download, messaging in any form, web services, services for transmitting funds or data, etc are termed as e-commerce. This means any entity which provides any of the above services falls under the definition of electronic commerce operator and has to obtain registration under GST irrespective of the turnover refer to Schedule III of the Model GST Act. This means all the startups have to register themselves under GST. What is left over in the definition of electronic commerce operator is Internet of things (IOT).

Section 43C gives in details about the process of collecting money from the supplier of goods or service provider by the e-commerce operator before paying them.

Section 43 (C) sub-section 1

(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Act or in any contract, arrangement or memorandum of understanding, every electronic commerce operator (hereinafter referred to in this section as the “operator”) shall, at the time of credit of any amount to the account of the supplier of goods and/or services or at the time of payment of any amount in cash or by any other mode, whichever is earlier, collect an amount, out of the amount payable or paid to the supplier, representing consideration

towards the supply of goods and /or services made through it, calculated at such rate as may be notified in this behalf by the Central/State Government on the recommendation of the Council.

Illustration 1

XYZ is an e-commerce operator and many sellers are registered with them for selling their products on the portal. A, who is small time seller of handicrafts also places his products on B, an end consumer places an order for few handicrafts items from supplied by A. B Pays an amount for his order of Rs 15,000 to has to pay A for the item being purchased by B. As of now is paying Rs 15,000 less commission charged by them. Going forward under GST, xyz has to deduct certain percentage as specified by the GST council and then only pay the net amount to A.

Now the question here arises is does have to recover the tax after deducting commission or on the full amount? If we go by the valuation under Model GST Law as given in section 15, is clearly says on the gross amount, so has to recover tax on Rs 15,000 but not on Rs 15,000 net of commission if any.

The amount collected from the supplier of goods and service provider by the e-commerce operator has to be deposited with the tax authorities by 10th of the next month.

Every operator has to submit a report electronically within 10 days from the end of the month, this report is to be filed separately other than the regular returns filed. The format of the report will be announced in due course and it should contain the details of all the suppliers of goods / services from whom the amount is being withheld and paid to the respective governments like supplier name, amount, date, tax recovered etc.,

The details filed by the e-commerce operator are verified with the returns filed by the sellers and if there is any mismatch, the same is informed to both the parties for correction. In case if there is any discrepancy and which is communicated to the supplier and no corrective action is taken, then the same is added as a liability to the suppliers return in the month in which it is communicated. The supplier is liable to pay tax along with interest, as determined by the concerned officer to the department.

The operator may be asked to furnish information relating to the details of his suppliers like quantity of goods held by him under his custody along with other places of business of the supplier.

From the above, it is clear that government does not want to lose a single penny in form of tax revenue. This process is ensuring that all the suppliers who are dealing with e-commerce are registered, in order to utilize the amount deducted by the e-commerce operator while receiving his payments. The amount deducted by the e-commerce operator one paid to the tax authorities is reflected in the electronic cash ledger of the supplier and he can utilize the same for payment of GST taxes.

Though it is titled as “Collection of Tax At Source” it is technically “tax deducted at source”, the reason is when the e-commerce operator is paying to the supplier of services or goods, certain amount is withheld and then only paid, it is similar to the tax deduction at source in direct taxes. In a way now TDS is applicable on goods also in indirect taxes for e-commerce transactions.

This provision has put an end to all the confusions which are there for the e-commerce currently.

The amount deducted by the e-commerce operator will be reflected in the GSTR -2 return of the seller on the e-commerce website as well as in the electronic cash ledger maintained by the common portal for the seller on the e-commerce website.

The amount to be paid by the e-commerce operator will be part of the monthly outward supplies in GSTR – 1 and also will be shown in the Electronic Liability Register maintained in the common portal. The E-commerce operator has to file another return separately called GSTR – 8 under GST with all the relevant details as required.

The taxes applicable will be of CGST and SGST for TCS in the case of intra state transaction and in the case of interstate transactions it will be IGST for TCS. This is based on the information provided in the Draft Invoice Formats.

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 owner 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.

These examples are based on the model law and may change based on the actual law passed.