Endorsed as “Good & Simple Tax”, Amman Devralia, Executive Director, KHD Humboldt Wedag, has a high expectation that it will buoy the Indian economy and bring the informal sector into the formal sector. In an interview with Nitin Madkaikar, Devralia reiterates its success will depend on the readiness of the entire supply chain (suppliers, distributors, retailers, logistics partners etc.) to adopt the regime.
Is the GST regime conducive as it described before the launch on July 1, 2017?
GST has been endorsed as “Good and Simple Tax”. ‘Good’ because it minimises the cascading effect of taxes (i.e., levying of tax on things that have already been taxed), thereby reducing the cost of doing business, and ‘Simple’ as it replaces multitude of indirect taxes, thereby increasing ease-of-doing business.
There are huge expectations that the biggest indirect tax reform will boost the Indian economy in the long run and huge shift will be seen from unorganised to organised sector. However, a period of three months is too short to come to a conclusion.
The fundamental aspect of GST is the seamless flow of input tax credit along the entire value chain, wherein credit of taxes paid on inputs at each stage is available in the subsequent stage of value addition, thereby making GST essentially a tax only on value addition at each stage. The ability to claim input tax credit under the GST regime depends on timely compliance and matching of data filed by the parties along the entire supply chain. Any lapse on part of the supplier may lead to denial of input tax credit in the hands of the recipient, thereby casting an additional burden on the recipient to ensure timely compliance by the supplier. As a safeguard, two-stage payment mechanism is being followed by the recipient wherein the basic portion is paid upfront to the supplier and tax portion only after reconciliation of data filed in the respective GST returns.
Some of the concerns includes:
a) readiness of the entire supply chain;
b) un-interrupted connectivity to GST Network;
c) increased level of compliance and reporting on a monthly basis.
Reports say that three returns have to be filed each month. Is this posing any operational problem/s in the supply chain?
Large entities were filing at-least three returns each month under different indirect tax laws (i.e. excise return, first stage dealer return, VAT and CST return) under the erstwhile tax regime as well. The real pain area under the GST regime as compared to the erstwhile tax regime is the level of compliance and reporting required to be done on a monthly basis. Entities are required to enter invoice level details in the monthly GST returns, which is a cumbersome process. Smaller entities without the required infrastructure are finding it difficult to manually enter invoice level details and large entities are facing infrastructural bottlenecks in uploading huge volume of data. In some ways, the government has outsourced the tax compliance to businesses in order to ensure compliance along the entire supply chain.
Are you satisfied with the procedures that came into force after July 1?
The design of a single IT platform – GST Network – as a common interface between the tax payers and tax authorities for the core functions of administration (like, registration, filing and processing of returns, payments and refunds), is definitely a step towards paperless regime. However, provisions with respect to self-invoicing and payment vouchers for inward supplies from unregistered vendors, issuance of advance receipt vouchers on receipt of advances from customers, etc., entails additional paper work. Further, the ongoing glitches in the GST Network has been disappointing and raises doubts about the operational capacity of the GST Network, which is the foundation for paperless regime.
The three months being seasonally weak for the industry, what was the impact on business compared with the past weak seasons?
As per industry reports, cement production witnessed a decline of 3.9 per cent in Q1FY17. Cement production stood at 72.67 million tonne (MT) in Q1FY17 as compared to 75.7 MT in Q1FY16. The decline was due to low inventory addition in the real estate and housing sector (accounting for about two-third of the total cement consumption in India), as the regulations and compliances under newly implemented Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 – RERA, made the developers cautious. With RERA implementation to be completed by the end of Q2FY17, clarity on the impact of GST on the real estate and housing sector coupled with government’s initiatives towards building affordable housing should eventually drive the demand for cement from the real estate and housing sector. Also, public infrastructure development lead by execution of smart cities and national highways projects across the country should drive the demand for cement from the infrastructure and construction sector in the next quarters.
Has the need for working capital risen, given that refunds are still locked with exchequer?
Yes, under the erstwhile tax regime, exporters enjoyed upfront tax exemption on purchases against concessional tax forms, which is not available under the GST regime. Under the GST regime, GST paid on inward supplies is required to be claimed as refund by the exporters. However, due to glitches in the GST Network, the deadline for filing GST returns for July 2017 (the first month under the GST regime) has been extended twice, with GSTR-3 now required to be filed as late as November 10, 2017. The extension in filing GST returns for the first and therefore subsequent months means delay in processing of refunds by the authorities thereby increasing the requirement for additional working capital.
Do you think GST regime will attract investment in your end use industry?
The demand for cement is driven by real estate and housing sector, accounting for about two-third of the total cement consumption in India. The other major consumers of cement include infrastructure, commercial construction and industrial construction. Given the government’s initiatives towards building affordable housing and public infrastructure development, GST regime will certainly attract investment in the real estate and construction sector. Further, bringing the real estate under the ambit of GST can boost the investment in the sector.
Is there any other information you wish to share.
The GST regime aims to widen the tax base by bringing the informal sector under the ambit of formal economy resulting in higher tax revenues for the exchequer, gradually allowing a move towards fewer slabs and lower GST rate. The transition has just started and the ride to make GST a “Good and Simple Tax” will be long and full of challenges requiring resilience on part of government and businesses. The successful implementation of GST will certainly drive the Indian economy offering opportunities for growth across sectors.