This is the end of Twitteras far as the goods and services tax (GST) is concerned. The indirect tax authorities will no longer answer queries on GST by tweet. The government has decided to discontinue the GST@GoI (@askGST_GoI) account launched a year ago — ahead of the July 1 rollout — to quickly respond to the many questions taxpayers had about the new levy.
“It was meant to address multiple queries on real-time basis by way of handholding,” said an official aware of the development. “Now that phase is over — hence this step.” The government always maintained that the tweets had no legal standing and were issued as guidance but taxpayers came to rely on them to adopt tax positions that sometimes resulted in penalties. Subsequently, industry has demanded the withdrawal of those penalties.
The government is of the view that with a fully functional and robust, formal system of engagement in place, urgent responses over Twitter are no longer required now.
The last GST related direct tweet from the handle was on August 1, seeking public comments on the new GST return forms.
Since then it has only been retweeting tweets from other government accounts and once pointed to PIB press releases on impact and awareness of GST, GST compensation to states, filings of GST returns and anti-profiteering mechanism under GST. The last activity from the account was on August 14 when it retweeted one from @PMOIndia.
The handle, launched on May 28 last year, provided quick responses on a wide range of issues including technical glitches, tax positions and procedures. This also helped the government get a good sense of the issues taxpayers faced and reply immediately, demonstrating its responsiveness to the concerns of the business world.
Still, there have been worries over some of the advice provided, including that on employee costs incurred by the corporate office and how that relates to branches. The Twitter handle said since these are in the nature of services provided by employee to employer, no GST would be applicable. This appears to have been at variance with the rules. The tweets also said that input tax credit on leasing charges of motor vehicles would be available, while there is an explicit exclusion under the GST legislation on availing such credit.
Tax experts said that the handle did a commendable job in addressing issues soon after the rollout but divergent views were a concern.
“The government GST Twitter handle has definitely done a commendable job in solving routine queries of taxpayers and raising awareness during GST implementation,” said Harpreet Singh, partner, KPMG India. “However, unfortunately, some of the tweets appear to be divergent from the interpretation of tax law and recent advance rulings.”