GST proves a bruising affair as delayed filing ‘bleeds’ traders

ALAPPUZHA: The shortcomings in the network system for traders to submit the monthly returns under the GST has been posing immense hardships to businessmen, especially, the small-scale traders. Hamstrung by this over 2.5 lakh traders from the state had to pay a penalty of `150 crore for late filing of returns in June, July and August.Traders blamed the delayed filing of returns on the lack of capacity of Goods and Service Tax Network, the portal run by a private agency.“I paid `6,800 as penalty for the past three months return due to the delay in filing returns. The delay was caused by the system’s failure and I was not to blame. The complexities of the website are creating a lot of problems,” said Sanal Antony, a mobile shop owner.

According to A M Ramesh Kumar, a GST consultant, “The system has the capacity to successfully manage the returns of about 80, 000 traders in a hour. But with 86 lakh traders registered with the GST in the country and the returns processed online, it becomes a tall task. When we upload the data to the website, the connection gets severed automatically. The entire thing goes in vain and we have to upload the entire data all over again. This means we are unable to file the returns in time”.

“We had got in touch with the help desk in New Delhi, but the response has not been encouraging. They were also unaware of the problem. Under the GST Act, any delay in filing the returns can invite a penalty of `200 daily which can go up to `10,000. The last date for filing of returns is November 20. In the first month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had waived the fine for delayed filing of returns. But at the time of filing the returns for July, the system demanded the previous month’s penalty,” he said.

“We again contacted the help desk, but the response was far from satisfactory. The agency did not make any proper changes to the software to avoid slapping the fine and manage more traders at one time. Hence, we were not able to file the returns of past three months properly. For the Centre’s goof-up, the traders here were slapped with a penalty running into several crores,” Ramesh said.

Roy Rippon, treasurer, All Kerala Income Tax and Sales Tax Practitioners’ Association, said they had submitted a memorandum to the Central Excise Commissioner demanding steps to rectify the mistakes. “We had also staged an agitation at the Central Excise Commissionerate’s Kochi office. “After submission of the memorandum, the officers of the commissionerate from Delhi inquired whether we are Maoist or Naxalites and our political affiliations. I told them we are tax practitioners merely seeking to rectify the failures in the GST system,” he said.

The association had submitted a memorandum to Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac, BJP state president Kummanam Rajesekharan and tax officers. They have also started an agitation demanding the issue be fixed.Isaac said the state government will simplify the system for filing returns. To avoid the complexities, the issues will be addressed at the next GST Meet scheduled to be held in New Delhi on November 10.