In the run to the goods and services tax (GST) regime and beyond, the role of chartered accountants (CAs) is crucial. It is for them to stand up and tell the government and the public their views regarding preparedness of their members and the trade.
The indirect taxes committee of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has taken initiatives to increase awareness among its members. It has made hundreds of useful suggestions to make the GST law simpler and easier for implementation. It has organised certificate courses, seminars, training programmes and live webcasts. It has brought out many publications on GST, with clause by clause analysis, along with frequently asked questions, flow charts and illustrations. It is also playing an important role in training of government officers on GST.
This committee has put on its website (http://idtc.icai.org) details of study materials, courses, training programmes, seminars, lectures, live webcasts and video recordings on GST. It has made available all these to the public. Its members have travelled all over the country sharing their extraordinary insights on various aspects of GST. They are best placed to assess the preparedness of CAs and businesses to cope with the tax’s roll-out.
Trade and industry are totally reliant on CAs to help them comply with the demands of GST laws. In most large companies, it is the CAs who deal with tax matters. The companies making accounting software also depend on CAs for inputs on tax matters. Almost all small businesses look to their CAs for advice on GST matters. The CAs understand how clients conduct their business, nuances of accounting, tax planning, etc, and handle their litigation till the adjudication and appeal stages.
However, it is doubtful if they are all ready to help their clients’ smooth transition to the GST regime. In a recent conference of CAs, Madhukar Hiregange, chairman of the Institute’s indirect taxes committee, asked how many from the audience had actually read the GST Acts. Only five hands went up in the audience of over 500. Understandable, as most practising CAs deal mainly with direct taxes, not with indirect tax matters. Beside, most of them are now busy with audits and finalisation of accounts of their clients and are likely to remain pre-occupied with these matters in the next three months.
Members of the committee have interacted closely with bureaucrats at various levels, apprising them of the nitty-gritty of the GST laws. They have credibility and command high respect for independence, professionalism and insights. It is more likely that their voices will be heard in the corridors of power. So, they should make a quick assessment or survey among ICAI members on preparedness for GST and convey the findings to the GST Council and the state and central governments.
The Bombay Chartered Accountants Society has already written to the prime minister and finance minister, asking to defer the GST implementation date to October 1. Now, the indirect taxes committee of ICAI should take a lead and come out with its unambiguous recommendation on the implementation date.