Total collection of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in November added up to Rs 80,808 crore, down from a provisional Rs 83,346 crore in October and a peak of over Rs 94,000 crore in July—the lowest since the tax regime was put in place.
Though the decline is partly due to sharp cuts in the tax on close to 200 items from November 15, there could be another reason: tax evasion.
Multiple tax rates have become an easy way for many traders to evade taxes. According to a TOI report, tax officials admit that in case of garments, for instance, a number of smaller players are billing one shirt that costs upwards of Rs 1,000 and attracts 12% levy as two pieces of around Rs 600 each to pay only 5% levy. This is in addition to a number of garments that earlier cost more than Rs 1,000 seeing marginal price cuts to fall under the lower tax bracket, where there is nothing wrong.
Some garment and utensils traders are using railways to evade tax, according to consultants and officials. Unlike goods moving by trucks, which are stopped on the way, there are virtually no checks in case of railways, making it easier to evade taxes. In the past, traders have ganged up to chase tax authorities at railway stations, making officials extremely wary of conducting raids, a senior official involved with GST told TOI.
Even when it comes to trucks, several businessmen based in Surat have found ways to evade taxes. According to industry sources, sari traders often use the same set of invoices to ship goods thrice to Delhi. “I don’t know why it’s three times but it is an industry norm,” says a tax consultant. A senior official acknowledges the massive use of kutcha and pucca invoices with the latter destroyed if tax authorities do not check a truck on the way.