NEW DELHI: Businesses are likely to receive more time to file their annual returns for goods and services tax (GST) and audit reports for fiscal year 2018-19, the first full year of the indirect tax reform.
Federal indirect tax body, GST Council, is expected to extend the due date for FY19 from the current 31 December, said a person privy to discussions in the Council. The step is being considered as companies are currently busy meeting the deadline for FY18, the first year of roll out of GST, the person said requesting anonymity.
Businesses have time till 30 November to file their annual returns and audit reports for the July-April period of FY18, for which they were given three extensions already considering the numerous changes in rules and the difficulties faced in shifting to the new technology reliant indirect tax regime.
India introduced GST on 1 July 2017, replacing a host of indirect taxes levied by the Union and state governments. The aim was to have a ‘one nation one tax’ which would improve the ease of doing business for taxpayers, usher transparency, ensure timely compliance and ultimately reduce the tax burden for the common man.
Industry experts said that an extension of the deadline for FY19 will be of immense help as they would otherwise be forced to finalize annual returns and audit reports for FY19 within a month of filing the same for the previous fiscal.
The extension of the due date for FY19 may however be announced only closer to the current deadline of 31 December, and not at the forthcoming meeting of the GST Council on 20 September, said the person cited above. The government does not want to pre-empt the preparations that businesses are currently doing to meet the due date, the person added.
The implementation of GST has been marked by continued extensions of due dates for filing various return forms as the new technology-driven indirect tax regime brought into its fold a large number of small firms. The council has progressively liberalized the compliance regime, especially for small businesses, who now have to pay only quarterly returns though they pay taxes on a monthly basis.
The Centre expects the new tax regime to potentially consume some more time to stabilize. “The full benefits of GST reforms should start accruing from FY21 and completely stabilize thereafter to ensure sustainable fiscal path,” the finance ministry had noted in the FY20 Union budget documents.
According to Archit Gupta, founder and chief executive of ClearTax, a technology firm offering services to tax payers, the focus of the authorities at present should be on improving compliance for FY18. Once that is out of the way, they could focus on the next financial year. “This way, learnings from the first year can be used to improve compliance for the years to follow. Simplification of GSTR-9 (annual return) is critical at this point, we hope in the next council meeting this is considered and changes are made,” Gupta said.
After tough negotiations with state governments, India started with a GST framework in 2017 that was geared towards bringing a large part of the unorganized sector within the formal sector which led to a backlash immediately after the launch of the new tax system. The GST Council then continuously reworked rules to ease the compliance burden, especially for small businesses, which form a significant politically relevant segment of the economy.
The authorities had also suspended some of the stringent self policing mechanisms in the technology driven tax system for some time.
To reduce the burden on consumers, the Council reduced tax rates in several rounds, which has affected tax receipts.