With Goods and Services Tax (GST) rolling out from July 1, the state border check post that collects taxes for movement of goods from one state to another was to be dismantled, but it seems this would not be the case. The government on Sunday said, consensus on the crucial e-way bill is still missing and states may continue with their own current system even when GST rolls out.
Border check posts for taxation was needed in the current indirect tax regime becomes VAT rates is different across states. With one common rate of taxation for goods across the country, the need for border check post did not exist.
“E-way Bill has still not been finalised. The indication from the Finance Minister that states may continue with their own current system on e-way bills brings ambiguity around the same and may dilute the one nation, one tax motto of GST,” says EY India, Tax Partner, Abhishek Jain.
E-way bill is the pivotal part of GST, but has proved to be contentious and a significant pain point for businesses. The difficulty arises from the fact that for goods worth more than Rs 50,000, a business will need to generate an e-way bill in real time from the GSTN and this has to accompany the invoice when goods are being moved around.
“It appears that the requisite IT infrastructure to get the e-way bill rules implemented is not ready and would take some time. The only option is to continue with the existing system of waybills under the VAT laws. This would require an amendment to the existing GST rules to borrow the provisions from the State VAT laws that would expire from 1 July,” says KPMG India, Indirect Tax Partner, Priyajit Ghosh.
Ghosh adds that continuance of the existing system of waybill would bring relief from familiarity perspective to the taxpayers. However, this would mean that existing check post system, in place in many States, would continue.
Against the GST spirit:
According to Deloitte India, Senior Director, MS Mani, the GST architecture should have no concept of e-way bill, because the law is modeled on the fundamental premise that India is one country that should have seamless movement of goods. “In the present system, there are restrictions because the tax rates are sometimes different across states and in the absence of any regulation there is the possibility of tax arbitrage.
Currently, we have a way bill or road permit, which, when generated online under GST would become e-way bills. This was relevant when there was different in VAT rates of states. There should be no question of having way bills under GST,” says Mani.
Mani says if at all, the system has to work, e-way bills should be restricted to a few goods and not all goods. “Where the tax authorities feel the possibility of tax evasion is more, one can have e-way bills, but it cannot be a blanket requirement for all goods,” says Mani.
The other way the GST council could have tackled the issue was postponing the entire e-way bill for six months after GST rollout. “They could have let GST settle and taken this up when things are clearer. Sadly, that has not happened,” says Mani.
What is happening now is contrary to the principles of GST. States like Karnataka has a way bill called E-Sugam and UP has e-Suvidha and this is likely to continue. Ghosh says the system varies across the states where Delhi requires waybills for incoming goods, Maharashtra do not require any waybill, while Karnataka requires waybills for both incoming as well outgoing goods. “The States would then continue to handle waybills divergently across India, while the underlying GST law would be same across India,” says Ghosh.
Mani says this is a bit of disappointment for businesses and leads to more complexity. “The border check posts will remain, which means trucks will have to wait and seamless movement of goods across the nation is still some distance away,” says Mani.
Ghosh, ironically sees a silver lining. “Interestingly, this would be the only area under GST, which would be well familiar to the State GST authorities and the taxpayers. It would remain to be seen whether the new GST or the existing VAT penalty provisions are made applicable, in the context of way related non compliances,” says Ghosh.