Hope for exporters on GST minuses

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has done well to recognise some ground realities. It recommended rate cuts on 40 commodities, rationalisation of cess on cars, amendments in the law to curb misuse by some suppliers of branded products, exemption from registration for inter-state supply of some products and job-work services, extension of dates for filing of returns, prescribing different deadlines for those with annual turnover of more than Rs 100 crore and the facility to amend the GST-TRAN-01 returns.

Following other decisions, the finance minister constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) to monitor and resolve the information technology challenges faced in implementation of GST. Also, a committee of experts to look at issues of the export sector and to recommend to the Council a suitable strategy for helping this sector in the GST regime. Sushil Kumar Modi, deputy chief minister of Bihar, will be the convenor of the GoM and revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia for the committee on export.

The problems relating to the GST Network (GSTN)) are not only technical. They have to do with the many processes, such as online entry of data, enormous information called for in the returns, invoice matching, e-way bills, registration, etc. These deserve a relook. Modi will be assisted by four ministers from different states and top executives of the GSTN. 

They should talk to the latter’s users, understand their problems and find ways to make compliance easier. They need not push the GSTN to any deadlines. If need be, the GSTR-3B summary returns could continue and filing of other monthly returns and invoice matching can start from next January/April.  

The Adhia committee on export has only bureaucrats -- some from the states, the director general of foreign trade (DGFT) and director general (export promotion) from the Central Board of Excise and Customs. The state bureaucrats are not directly involved with export. The present DGFT is new to the job and as with most of his predecessors, might not be too conversant with the nitty-gritty of indirect taxes. The DGEP is a revenue officer, who mainly looks at how to facilitate export without compromising revenue. The trade has no representation in this panel. 

Adhia has been insensitive to the problems of exporters on the ground that the chain of input tax credit must not break. He blamed the trade for filing returns on the last date, rather than admit the glitches in GSTN. He dismissed compliance burdens as myths. So, we have to wait and see what this committee does. For now, exporters should quickly send their representations to it, both directly and through the DGFT and business associations.

The esteemed Minister of commerce, Suresh Prabhu, should not hesitate to give Adhia some lessons on the importance of export for the national economy and job creation. And, Adhia should climb down from his high horse and listen to what exporters and the DGFT have to say. 

Exporters have been shabbily treated in the run-up to and in the GST regime so far. The GST Council deserves appreciation for giving hope to exporters that their grievances will now get a hearing and remedial measures taken. Hopefully, the Adhia committee will live up to their expectations. 

E-mail: tncrajagopalan@gmail.com

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