Alphabet soup’ typos in GST ID are taxing businesses

Alphabet soup’ typos in GST ID are taxing businesses

Errors while keying in numbers ‘0’ or ‘1’ can delay input tax credit claims

Businesses in post-GST India are learning that an elementary typographical error while punching in their 15-digit GST identification number (GSTIN) can prove taxing.

The GSTIN is used as an ID for all companies registered under the GST, and has to be furnished for various transactions.

But keying in the alphabet ‘O’ in place of the numerical ‘0’, for instance, can delay and create confusion in claiming input tax credits.

Case for a reconfiguration

The small typo errors are causing large-enough inconveniences for a top industry official to suggest that the GSTIN should drop the letters O and I, and the numbers 0 and 1 in order to avert confusion.

That’s because the alphabet ‘I’ is often mistaken for the numerical ‘1’ and the alphabet ‘O’ is mistaken as ‘0’ (zero).

“A simple way to lower such error rates could be to rework the GSTIN number,” the industry official told BusinessLine.

‘Potential for havoc’

“These two alphabets and numbers tend to create havoc. To do away with such potential cases, it is better to have 24 alphabets and 8 numbers in the GSTIN number,” the official said.

Another industry official said the idea had been orally communicated to the GST Council.

The typographical problem is serious enough that the Indian Railways took note of it earlier this month.

Admitting to a number of cases of “wrong reporting of GSTIN number”, the public carrier devised a web-based solution to claim input tax credits that have remained stuck due to erroneous entries.

The Railways’ IT arm, CRIS, has built a software module and authorised officials in the divisions and zones to replace the wrongly typed GSTIN with the correct numbers.

This can be done for a transaction that has already been carried out against a particular tax invoice. These are cases where the GST portal has rejected the return process because the GSTIN did not match.

Challenges on the road

The issue is even more complex for roads because the sector is largely unorganised, and many players do not have IT systems in place, which makes it a challenge to match documents.

However, a Railways official said these were teething troubles, which were inevitable during a technology upgrade.

“These errors will come down significantly once the numbers have been correctly fed into a database,” he said.

In fact, similar teething troubles are cropping up in the implementation of the e-way bill, which aims to prevent tax evasion by tracking the movement of goods and involves punching in multiple numbers, including the GSTIN.

Manual entries

Raaja Kanwar, Vice Chairman and MD, Apollo Logistics, told BusinessLine, “Although the e-way bill is generated automatically, data input is done manually by front-end staff.”

While moving goods inter-State, he said, “you have to key in the same number a couple of times in different places. An extra space here or a dash there… those kind of errors are possible until we automate all that or all invoices are barcoded.”

But that, he adds, “involves costs.”

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