e-Way bills curb tax evasion, but glitches remain

Satya Sontanam | Updated on September 23, 2019 Published on September 23, 2019


There are numerous concerns on the functioning of the GST regime, launched two years ago. But the e-Way bill's system is displaying good traction. While there are a few glitches, users mostly agree that e-Way bills have brought down under-reporting and increased transparency.

The system was rolled out for inter-State consignments in April 2018, and for intra-State consignments two months later, in a phased manner. e-Way bills generation for the period April-June 2019 was almost 40 per cent higher at about 15.65 crore, compared to 11.19 crore in the same period last year.

For transport companies, the system has saved considerable time, removing check-posts and facilitating the shift from a ‘departmental policing model’ to a ‘self-declaration model’. It has also helped in curbing tax evasion.

According to chartered accountant Chirag Chauhan, e-Way bills have reduced tax evasion by almost 80 per cent. He also points out that the drop in GST collections of just 2-5 per cent in the first quarter of FY20, against a sales decrease of 15-20 per cent, is proof that tax malpractices have come down.

Under the norms, every consignment worth above ₹50,000 (raised to ₹1 lakh in a few States as a temporary relief) should begin with the generation of an e-Way bill. The bill must be raised before the goods are shipped and should include details of the products, their consignor, recipient and transporter. Though check-posts have been abolished under GST, a consignment can be intercepted at any point for the verification of its e-Way bill. If found without one, or with invoice discrepancies, a penalty of ₹10,000, or tax sought to be evaded, or, in some cases, 200 per cent of the GST amount, can be levied. These provisions are helping in reducing the disparities between the actual value of the sale and that reported in e-Way bills. Every e-Way bill generated has to be matched at the invoice level with the entries uploaded by the manufacturers or traders in their monthly GSTR-1 returns for outward supplies. Also, the GSTR-1 of the manufacturer or trader gets auto- populated in the GSTR-2A of the purchaser, based on which the latter claims the input tax credit (ITC).

Due to such matching of invoices at multiple levels, there’s hardly any scope for the supplier to under-report sales.

Once the e-Way bill portal is linked to the centralised VAHAN portal, which contains vehicles details, generation of fake e-Way bills gets checked. Further, the system helps in increasing the overall GST compliance, as a recent notification bars a supplier or a recipient from generating an e-Way bill if the GST returns are not filed for two consecutive months.

Some challenges do remain. Complaints have been raised that the time limits prescribed for the validity of an e-Way bill are not in consonance with ground realities.

Time limit

“Genuine reasons for delays should be taken into account while fixing the time limits,” Bal Malkit Singh, former President of the All India Motor Transport Congress, told BusinessLine.

On consignment verification issues, he said: “State borders have paved the way for flying squads and, the vehicles are being stopped randomly on the pretext of checking for collateral extortion.” Another issue, he said, is the lack of flexibility in rectifying errors and changing the destination address.

Published on September 23, 2019
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