Goods and Services Tax IT backbone will take time to stabilise

From the day it was launched on July 1 , the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax has faced two sets of challenges. The first set of problems emerged from the fundamental flaw of having multiple tax slabs instead of a simple two-or three-tier tax system.

The other set of difficulties emerged from the need to file multiple tax returns and the cumbersome accounting most people engaging in the sales of services or goods are required to undertake. These troubles were accentuated by the online system through which all users have to file their returns. The software and IT system for GST is run and maintained by the Goods and Services Tax Network, a non-profit company in which the Union and state governments hold a 49% share.

Formed in 2013, the company and its operations have faced a series of controversies, including misgivings about the fact that the country’s indirect tax database has been handed over to a non-government entity.

The company contracted Infosys to build the IT backbone on its behalf for GST. But as the tax regime was launched, many people filing returns complained of glitches with the network. A body of traders accused Infosys of failing to deliver on its contract, and the GST Council set up a five-member team headed by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi to look into technical problems being faced by the GST registration and tax filing portal.

Alongside, a debate raged about whether the Comptroller and Auditor General of India could audit the Goods and Services Tax Network company.

Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chairman of the Goods and Services Tax Network, spoke to to answer some queries on these counts.

What problems that people faced with filing returns through the Goods and Services Tax Network have been resolved, and what issues issues remain pending for resolution?
Let me clarify, many of the the issues which cropped up at the beginning have been addressed. We are also seeing the results now. As of December 2, the number of tax returns filed for the month of October are 5.25 million. For the month of September, in comparison, 4.8 million returns were filed. There is a marked increase of 450,000 returns on a month-to-month basis. This shows that more and more people are finding it convenient to file their returns. The people who filed monthly returns for October and the previous months in November went up to eight million. From the day the Goods and Services Tax was launched, the total number of returns filed has gone up to 31 million. This clearly shows people are able to file returns.

There could be some cases still, where, because of individual circumstances, people may be facing some difficulties. For example, some people want to do internet banking and it is not working [because], say, someone has got locked out by putting in the wrong password three times – that can happen in any IT-based system. People may be facing some similar problems and we shall address those too. The last day to file the returns for October was November 20. On that day alone 1.8 million people filed returns.


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