National Informatics Centre is working overtime to iron out rough edges as further delay in e-way bill’s implementation could hurt the Centre and states’ revenues
Technical glitches that aborted goods and services tax (GST) e-way bill’s full-fledged launch on February 1 will be ironed out by the end of this month, sources told Moneycontrol.
The trial run of the e-way bill system, which promises to enable faster goods movement through a seamless portal-driven payment system without lorries having to wait at state borders, will, however, continue.
The National Informatics Centre (NIC), the government’s nodal IT procurement arm, will be ready with a foolproof e-way bill system end of the month, said a source, who did not wish to be identified.
The e-way bill portal crashed on its launch day—February 1—triggering howls of criticism from traders and transporters as the movement of trucks criss-crossing on highways was severely affected.
The disruption forced the GST Council, the finance minister Arun Jaitley-headed body, to push back the e-way bill system’s full-fledged launch.
“In view of difficulties faced by the trade in generating e-way bill due to initial tech glitches, it has been decided to extend the trial phase for generation of e-way bill, both for inter and intra-state movement of goods. It shall be made compulsory from a date to be announced,” the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) tweeted on February 1.
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 through 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.
Introduction of e-way bill will enable tax authorities track the inter-state and intra-state movement of goods, thus preventing any possible tax evasion.
The nationwide e-way bill system was to be ready for implementation on a trial basis from January 16.
The e-way bill portal’s crash on February 1 was a throwback to the technical irritants that traders faced while filing returns on the GST Network (GSTN) portal since August.
Moneycontrol has learnt from sources that NIC’s lack of preparedness led to the ‘technical glitch’.
The e-way bill system has been developed by NIC. On February 1, the portal collapsed as it wasn’t ready to handle the large volumes of inter as well as intra-state bills that were being generated at the time, sources said.
Karnataka was the only state where the e-way bill system has been functioning for the last several months. Moneycontrol has learnt that because of an unforeseen technical problem, the entire load of handling countrywide e-way bills fell on Karnataka’s system.
NIC is responsible for building most of the e-governance applications of the government at the centre, state and district levels. It is also responsible for building and maintaining internal systems that interoperate within the ministries, including email services and other online portals.
The responsibility of developing an e-way bill system was given to NIC in September and it was decided by the GST Council on October 6 that the e-way bill should be made compulsory beginning April 1, 2018.
However, the Council met via video conference on December 16 and decided to make the rollout of all-India electronic-way bill compulsory from February 1 – two months ahead of the earlier plan to mainly plug revenue leakages.
A meeting was called to discuss ways to boost tax revenues after monthly GST tax collections fell below the targeted level of Rs 91,000 crore. In November, revenue collection from GST slipped to Rs 80,808 crore, lowest since the implementation of the indirect tax system from July 1.
While the system for both inter and intra-state e-way bill generation was supposed to be ready in January, the Council decided that states could choose their own timings for implementation of the document for intra-state movement of goods on any date before June 1, 2018.