The introduction of GST has slightly dampened the brand value of other taxes such as income tax. Evidence of this can be seen from the fact that the government is now branding GST forms with names that were assigned to income-tax forms.

At the recent GST Council meeting, a decision was taken to name two returns to be filed by small taxpayers Sahaj and Sugam. These small taxpayers have an option to file Sahaj and Sugam every quarter depending on whether their supplies are business-to-business or business-to-consumer.

Ever since the concept of matching of invoices faded into oblivion, the government has been stating that another version of the same concept is being developed. Broad outlines of this version were published after the Council meeting. All taxpayers, excluding small taxpayers and a few exceptions like input service distributors, shall file monthly returns. It is being stated that the return is simple with two main tables — one for reporting outward supplies and the other for getting input-tax credit based on invoices uploaded by the supplier.

Invoices can be uploaded continuously by the seller and these can be continuously viewed and locked by the buyer for getting input-tax credit. This process would ensure that a very large part of the return is automatically filled based on the invoices uploaded by the buyer and the seller.

Facility for amendment

Simply put, the process would be ‘Upload-Lock–Pay’ for most taxpayers, who would also have the facility to create a profile based on the nature of supplies made and received. The fields of information which a taxpayer would be shown and would be required to fill in the return would depend on his profile. Taxpayers who have not purchases or sales would be allowed to file their returns through SMS. The new return design provides facility for amendment of invoice and also other details filed. The amendment shall be carried out by filing of a return called amendment return. Payment would be allowed to be made through the amendment return as it will help save interest liability for the taxpayers.

The GST Council stated that 93 per cent (a statistic that is glaring but should be taken with some scepticism) of the taxpayers have a turnover of less than ₹5 crore and they would benefit substantially from the simplification measures proposed, and improving also the ‘ease of doing business’. It went on to say that even large taxpayers would find the design of the new return quite user-friendly.

While the ULP (upload, lock, pay) technique sounds good, the government should ensure that there is no denial of input-tax credit due to technical issues that taxpayers may face while working on the ULP technique.

The proposals relating to returns should be welcomed as they fix two major lacunae in the present system of filing — no counter-check on utilising input-tax credit and the inability to revise a return once filed to correct unintended mistakes. It is being proposed that the revision of the return will happen through an amendment return and tax would be filed on the basis of the amendment return.

The notification that will launch the new proposals for filing of returns should also clarify how many times can the amendment return be filed. Ideally, the taxpayer should be permitted to revise his return only once.

The writer is a chartered accountant.

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