BENGALURU: Traders across the country are urging the Centre to defer the collection of Goods and Services Tax (GST) as they are not able to pay tax online, given the technical glitches they are facing on the government’s web portal.
August 25 was the last day to pay GST for the month of July, and file tax returns. However, only 29.3 lakh of 87 lakh registered traders in India could file returns before the expiry of the last date. It was worse in Karnataka where only 1.25 lakh of the 4.5 lakh registered traders under GST could file their returns.
The last date, in fact, was August 20 and the government extended the deadline to August 25 after it received complaints about technical glitches on the web portal of the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN). However, the extension of deadline has not helped since there was no improvement in technical support in the interim. “It is rather shameful that basic utilities for filing GST returns are not available on the GSTN web portal. Transition and export forms are not available on the portal when they are most essential,” the Chartered Accountants’ Association, Surat, said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Voicing the concerns of traders, the association has requested a six-month moratorium on tax collection. “While these basic utilities are not yet ready, it is requested to defer the compliance process to be done online, at least for six months,” the letter said, adding that traders should be allowed to self-assess GST till such time that the system is up and running.
Penalty unfair, say traders
Adding to the distress, traders are being asked to pay a penalty for not paying tax within the deadline. Many traders in Karnataka have already received notices from the state commercial tax department, with the penalty ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 5,000 a day. Besides, the traders have to pay 18% interest on the due amount.
Arguing that non-compliance was due to the technical fault of the GSTN portal, the Confederation of All-India Traders’ Associations has urged the Centre to exempt traders from the penal provision for the current financial year.
“Since the payment delay is not due to the fault of traders, it is unfair to penalize them for it. We have written to finance minister Arun Jaitley, requesting him to defer the penal provision till March 31, 2018. They can have a regular penalty system from the beginning of the next financial year. By then, we hope the system will be working smoothly,” said Praveen Khandelawal, national secretary-general of the Confederation of All India Traders’ Association.
Prakash Kumar, CEO of GSTN, however, denied the government’s web portal was malfunctioning. “If it isn’t working, how come lakhs of traders were able to file tax returns on time? Non-compliance may be due to other reasons,” Kumar said.