Come July, the scheduled date for GST launch, even a cycle rickshaw puller may have to use his mobile phone to generate an electronic challan -an electronic way bill -to move a high-end TV or fridge from a warehouse to a store.
For that matter, a Eureka Forbes salesman too will have to generate an e-way bill since the value of spares and components in his bag usually exceeds Rs 50,000, the threshold beyond which a challan has to be generated, said tax experts.
Long used to ad-hoc functioning, businesses find this rule bewildering as moving a flagship Apple or Samsung phone will also require an electronic way bill.
“There are practical issues. Connectivity may be a problem when our trucks go to source milk or fruits and vegetables from farmers,” said Mother Dairy CFO Meghnad Mitra. Fresh bills will be needed when processed milk or fruits and vegetables move out from Mother Dairy units, but Mitra sees it as a lesser challenge.
What if a truck breaks down while shipping goods from, say, Ludhiana to a port? The transporter will need to generate a new challan for the replacement truck.
Courier companies face more complexity. An e-way bill will be needed to be generated whenever goods exceeding the threshold value are collected and moved from an office to their godown.
Another challan will be needed when the goods are loaded in an aircraft or truck. The process will be repeated on arrival in the destination city.
E-way bills are valid for a limited duration. For instance, the validity for distances less than 100km is only a day; beyond 1,000km, it increases to 15 days. A new challan is required if a truck exceeds the time slab for the distance.
“Our drivers will need training although I am not sure if they will still be able to do it,” said Kanpur-based Goldie, who claimed to represent an association of around 1,000 truckers.
Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training’s S P Singh, however, says that the problem is overstated as 2.5 lakh transporters, accounting for 95% goods traffic on road are well versed with computers and smartphones and in a position to carry out any e-way bill-like transaction. He, however, suggested that the limit could be raised from Rs 50,000.
Given the complications, many expect the implementation of e-way bills, which are meant to ease border checks and save time through machine-readable radio frequency identification tags, will be deferred. Earlier this month, revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia also said the government will provide time to transporters to adjust to the new system.
“The system of e-way bill is a major reform and will remove many complications. Initially, we will only observe the behaviour (of transporters). We will be flexible and won’t put penalties from the start,” he said at a conference.
Officials told TOI the government is reviewing the norms and various options are on the table, including restricting e-way bills initially to evasion-prone sectors or raising the threshold value above Rs 50,000.
Another option is to make e-way bills mandatory only for goods that attract GST, sparing exempted goods such as agricultural produce. “The industry has some concerns and we will look into them. A decision will be taken by a committee,” said a senior finance ministry official.