The income-tax department will in all likelihood go into overdrive in the next three months with the Central Board of Direct Taxes — the apex body — alerting all senior tax officials that their performance is being “monitored at the highest level.” It will also give a renewed push towards imposing and recovering tax on Rs 3 lakh crore deposit, which is suspected to be the quantum of unexplained cash parked with banks post demonetisation.
“There will be searches, surveys, information verification, and follow-ups. Explanations on ‘cash in hand’ amounts are being sought from different kinds of assessees, and not just from large establishments and jewellers… We will be knocking on many doors even if our respective targets are met,” a senior tax officer told ET.
This was broadly the message conveyed by the CBDT chief during a recent video-conference with tax officials.According to another person in the department, direct tax offices in various circles may be required to go full steam due to a drop in GST collection following cut in tax rates and refunds.
‘Dispose of Appeals Before March 31’
Till now many in the department were caught up with assessments pertaining to notices which were sent in September 2015 (for the financial year 2014-15) as these matters were getting time-barred in December 2017. Now, tax officers have the time to focus on recovery till March 31. “A possible slowdown in income tax refund, directing the CIT Appeal to dispose of appeals confirming the additions, investigating cases where assesses have deposited more than Rs 10 lakh in demonetised notes may push up gross collection. But does this really reflect the true state of tax collection in a slowing economy where the GDP growth rate is admitted to have come down,” said senior chartered accountant Dilip Lakhani.
In some of the large tax collection zones like Mumbai, the chief commissioner has written to several offices of the commissioner of income tax (Appeals), which is the first appellate authority, to dispose of many appeals before the close of the financial year.
Tax authorities technically have the power to come down heavily on those who are unable to explain their cash deposit by slapping 60% tax and penalty – even though the process could take some time.
About two months ago, tax offices were directed to accept only those revised tax returns where there is a “bonafide inadvertent error” or “a mistake” on the part of the assessee. This was to tax the unaccounted cash that was deposited after demonetisation (of high denomination currency bills in November 2016) and subsequently regularised through a revised return and payment of tax on it at the normal rate of 30%.
However, the communique to tax officers guidelines were only suggestive in nature as the law allows filing of revised return due to various reasons including an intention to conceal income.
India’s growth rate in 2018 is projected to hit 7.3 per cent and 7.5 per cent in the next two years, according to the World Bank, which said the country has “enormous growth potential” compared to other emerging economies with the implementation of comprehensive reforms.
India is estimated to have grown at 6.7 per cent in 2017 despite initial setbacks from demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), according to the 2018 Global Economics Prospect released by the World Bank here yesterday.
“In all likelihood India is going to register higher growth rate than other major emerging market economies in the next decade. So, I wouldn’t focus on the short-term numbers. I would look at the big picture for India and big picture is telling us that it has enormous potential,” Ayhan Kose, Director, Development Prospects Group at the World Bank, told PTI in an interview.
He said in comparison with China, which is slowing, the World Bank is expecting India to gradually accelerate.
“The growth numbers of the past three years were very healthy,” Kose, author of the report, said.
India’s economy is likely to grow 7.3 per cent in 2018 and then accelerate to 7.5 per cent in the next two years, the bank said.
China grew at 6.8 per cent in 2017, 0.1 per cent more than that of India, while in 2018, its growth rate is projected at 6.4 per cent. And in the next two years, the country’s growth rate will drop marginally to 6.3 and 6.2 per cent, respectively.
To materialise its potential, India, Kose said, needs to take steps to boost investment prospects.
There are measures underway to do in terms of non- performing loans and productivity, he said.
“On the productivity side, India has enormous potential with respect to secondary education completion rate. All in all, improved labour market reforms, education and health reforms as well as relaxing investment bottleneck will help improve India’s prospects,” Kose said.
India has a favourable demographic profile which is rarely seen in other economies, he said.
“In that context, improving female labour force participation rate is going to be important. Female labour force participation still remains low relative to other emerging market economies,” he said.
Reducing youth unemployment is critical, and pushing for private investment, where problems are already well-known like bank assets quality issues…If these are done, India can reach its potential easily and exceed, Kose asserted.
“In fact, we expect India to do better than its potential in 2018 and move forward,” he said.
India’s growth potential, he said would be around 7 per cent for the next 10 years.
The Indian government is “very serious” with the GST being a major turning point and banking recapitalisation programme is really important, Kose said.
“The Indian government has already recognised some of these problems and undertaking measures and willing to see the outcomes of these measures,” he said.
“India is a very large economy. It has a huge potential. At the same time, it has its own challenges. This government is very much aware of these challenges and is showing just doing its best in terms of dealing with them,” the World Bank official said.
The latest World Bank growth estimate for 2017 is 0.5 per cent, less than the previous projection, and 0.2 per cent less in the next two years.
“It is slightly lower than its previous forecast, primarily because India is undertaking major reforms,” Kose said.
These reforms, of course, will bring certain policy uncertainty, he said, “but the big issue about India, when you look at India’s growth potential and our numbers down the road 2019 and 2020, is that it is going to be the fastest growing large emerging market.”
“India has an ambitious government undertaking comprehensive reforms. The GST is a major reform to have harmonised taxes, is one nation one market one tax concept. Then, of course, the late 2016 demonetisation reform was there. The government is well aware of these short-term implications,” Kose said.
He said there might have been some temporary disruptions but “all in all” the Indian economy has done well.
“The potential growth rate of the Indian economy is very healthy to 7 per cent. I think the growth is going to be at a high rate going forward,” the World Bank official said.
In a South Asia regional press release, the World Bank said India is estimated to grow 6.7 percent in fiscal year 2017-18, slightly down from the 7.1 percent of the previous fiscal year.
This is due in part to the effects of the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, but also to protracted balance sheet weaknesses, including corporate debt burdens and non- performing loans in the banking sector, weighing down private investment, it said.
The GST Council may move the sales and purchase invoice matching system to the back end. It will do so to keep tabs on missing transactions and check over-claim of input tax credits in the goods and services tax (GST).
At present, assessees claim input credits themselves by filing summary input- output returns, and the tax authorities do not have any clue whether the claims are correct or not. The process of invoice matching was supposed to be done by the assessees, though it was deferred till March. However, slowing GST revenues have now prompted the government to design an alternative mechanism, under which tax officials will do the matching themselves.
“Instead of asking taxpayers to match invoices, we may do it ourselves at the back end. We may follow a risk-based approach; when the gross level of transactions does not match, we may match invoices,” an official said, adding the proposal was under consideration.
GSTR-1 (sales) and GSTR-2 (purchase) returns have to be matched with GSTR-3 to ensure that claims by taxpayers are correct. Both GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 returns have been postponed.
A committee, under GSTN Chairman Ajay Bhushan Pandey, is looking at ways of making the filing of the GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 forms business-friendly. The time period for filing the GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 forms for the months of July to March is also being worked out. The committee has recommended merging the GSTR-1, 2 and 3 forms as one option to simplify filing returns.
According to estimates, there is a 15-20 per cent GST revenue leakage at the moment.
GSTR-1 is used to file details of outward sales of a dealer. After submission, the details of purchases made by the dealer are automatically populated in the GSTR-2 form. The dealer is required to verify the details and submit the form. Finally, GSTR-3 calculates a taxpayer’s tax liability and the available input tax credit.
GST revenue collections touched their lowest in November at ~808 billion. According t0o the government’s estimates, if this trend continues, there could be a shortfall of ~250-300 billion in indirect tax collections this fiscal year. The government had attributed the slowing revenue to postponement of features of the GST such as matching of returns, electronic way bills and the reverse charge mechanism.
The revenue slowdown prompted the GST Council to call an urgent meeting on December 16 and advance the introduction of the electronicway bill for inter-state movements of goods to February 1 and for intra-state carriage from June 1.
“It is important that the concept of invoice matching continues as it is part of the basic design of the GST. If it is not done electronically, it will be needed at the time of assessment or audit, which will lead to more paperwork. The process can, however, be simplified,” said Pratik Jain, leader-indirect taxes, PwC India.
M S Mani, senior director-indirect taxes, Deloitte, said invoice matching provided taxpayers the ability to view transactions and take corrective steps on an ongoing basis. “While this may be cumbersome for small businesses, there are significant benefits for taxpayers and the government. However, the technology challenges will have to be overcome so that the matching happens seamlessly online in real time,” he said.
Bipin Sapra, partner— indirect taxes, EY, said, “In the absence of invoice level matching, the alternative is to match revenues and credits with GSTR1 but since the process will not be automated, it will be possible for a limited number of clients on the basis of risk assessment.”
The government has extended by 10 days the last date for filing of final sales return GSTR-1 till January 10 under the Goods and Services Tax, sources said.
Businesses with turnover of up to Rs. 1.5 crore will have to file GSTR-1 for July-September by January 10, 2018, as against December 31, 2017 earlier. For businesses with turnover of more than Rs. 1.5 crore GSTR-1 has to be filed for the period July-November by January 10.
Earlier these businesses were required to file GSTR-1 return for July-October by December 31 and that for November by January 10. For the month of December, GSTR-1 is to be filed by February 10 and for subsequent months, it would be 10th day of the succeeding month.
The GST Council had in November allowed businesses with turnover of up to Rs. 1.5 crore to file final returns GSTR-1 quarterly. Businesses with turnover of up to Rs. 1.5 crore will have to file returns by February 15 for the period October- December and that for January-March by April 30.
The disruptive impact of demonetisation announced last year is a temporary phenomenon and the scrapping of the high-value currency would bring “permanent and substantial benefits”, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In an interview to CNBC TV18, IMF Economic Counsellor and Director of Research Maurice Obstfeld said that although demonetisation, as well as implementation of the Goods and Services tax (GST) caused short-term disruptions, both measures would bring long-term benefits.
“The costs of demonetisation are largely temporary and we see permanent and substantial benefits accruing from the move,” Obstfeld said.
Demonetisation caused long queues outside banks.
“Both demonetisation and the GST introduction will bring long-term benefits, though these caused short-term disruption,” he said.
The IMF Chief Economist described GST as a “work in progress” to which the Indian economy is “gradually adjusting”.
With businesses going into a “destocking” mode on inventories in anticipation of the GST rollout from July 1, sluggish manufacturing growth, among other factors, pulled down growth in the Indian economy during the first quarter of this fiscal to 5.7 percent, clocking the lowest GDP growth rate under the Narendra Modi dispensation.
Breaking a five-quarter slump, however, a rise in manufacturing sector output pushed the growth rate higher to 6.3 percent during the second quarter (July-September) of 2017-18.
Obstfeld also listed some of the reforms being undertaken by the Indian government that have impressed the multilateral agencies.
“The government has taken important first steps like bringing in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, which helped India improve its position substantially in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings,” he said.
He also mentioned the recent recapitalisation plan for state-run banks announced by the government and the Asset Quality Review of commercial banks earlier ordered by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Both measures are designed to address the issue of massive non-performing assets (NPAs), or bad loans, accumulated in the Indian banking system that have crossed a staggering Rs 8.5 lakh crore.
In a report released in Washington on Thursday, the IMF cautioned that the high volume of NPAs and the slow pace of mending corporate balance sheets are holding back investment and growth in India even though structural reforms have helped the nation record stronger growth.
The IMF’s Financial System Stability Assessment (FSSA) for India said that overall “India’s key banks appear resilient, but the system is subject to considerable vulnerabilities”.
“The financial sector is facing considerable challenges, and economic growth has recently slowed down,” the report said.
“High non-performing assets and slow deleveraging and repair of corporate balance sheets are testing the resilience of the banking system, and holding back investment and growth.”
“Stress tests show that… a group of public sector banks are highly vulnerable to further declines in asset quality and higher provisioning needs,” it added.
Ferrying goods across states may get quicker as the GST Council today decided to make rollout of all India electronic-way bill compulsory from February 1, two months ahead of the earlier plan.
“The rules for implementation of nationwide e-way bill system for inter-state movement of goods on a compulsory basis will be notified with effect from February 1, 2018. This will bring uniformity across states for seamless inter-state movement of goods,” the finance ministry said in a statement.
The decision comes after the Council, headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley, met earlier during the day via video conference, to decide upon the advancement of the implementation of e-way bill under the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Under GST rules, ferrying goods worth more than Rs 50,000 within or outside a state will require securing an electronic-way or e-way bill by prior online registration of the consignment.
To generate an e-way bill, the supplier and transporter will have to upload details on the GST Network portal, after which a unique e-way bill number (EBN) will be made available to the supplier, the recipient and the transporter on the common portal.
The Council had decided that till such time as the national e-way Bill is ready, the states were authorised to continue their own separate e-way bill systems. The finance minister had said that system will be introduced in a staggered manner, with effect from January 1, 2018, adding that the document will be made applicable on an all-India basis from April 1.
“It was represented by the trade and transporters that this (lack of national e-way bill) is causing undue hardship in the inter-state movement of goods and therefore, bringing in an early all India system of e-way Bill has become a necessity,” the ministry said.
As a nationwide e-way bill system will be ready for implementation on a trial basis by January 16, transporters can start using this system on a voluntary basis from the same date, it said.
While the system for both inter and intra-State e-way bill generation will be ready next month, the Council decided that states may choose their own timings for implementation of the document for intra-state movement of goods on any date before 1st June, 2018.
“There are certain States which are already having system of e-way bill for intra-state as well as inter-state movement and some of those states can be early adopters of national e-way Bill system for intra-state movement also. But in any case, the uniform system of e-way bill for inter-state as well as intra-State movement will be implemented across the country by 1st June, 2018,” the statement said.
According to Abhishek A Rastogi, Partner, Khaitan & Co, the government should check the system thoroughly so that there is no disruption in movement of goods.
“The fair balance for mandatory inter-state e-way bill compliance from February 1 will have to be maintained. This compliance will reduce tax evasions but may pose some problems for businesses in movement of goods…while compulsory intra-state e-way bill compliance will happen from June 1, the government should be clear whether these provisions will be applicable for supplies which are out of the GST net,” Rastogi said.
Another expert said that the immediate call to advance the implementation of e-way bill reflects that some serious gaps in the system have been noticed by the government.
“The downfall in the revenue on account of GST, goods crossing the state borders unaccountable by few taxpayers, etc. could be the reasons for the early implementation of e-waybill as this form will forcefully make the taxpayer accountable in the absence of matching of invoices which is currently postponed,” Ansh Bhargava, Head Growth & Strategy, Taxmann said.
The government it seems is in no mood to lower its guard on the tax collection front as it looks to send notices to GST defaulters.
According to a report in Business Standard, the government is set to issue notices who have failed to file returns.
Due to postponement of measures under the GST such as matching returns, the e-way bill, and the reverse change mechanism, assessees have found a way to avoid paying taxes. This has prompted a hardening stand on revenue leakages, as per a government official.
In July, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) had asked its officers to go easy on taxpayers till GST’s teething problems were solved. But CBEC Chairperson Vanaja Sarna in a letter to his officers has said “sending out notices to those assessees under your jurisdiction who have failed to file returns may be considered.”
GST collections slowed to their lowest at Rs 83,346 crore in October as the integrated GST was used as credit and rates were revised downward, the report said.
The government official further said that reduction in the GST rates for more than 200 items last month might also affect collections. Fearing a slump in revenue collections, the GST Council on Saturday decided to implement the nationwide roll-out of the electronic way bill on interstate movements of goods from February 1 and for interstate carriage from June 1.