Moneycontrol caught up with GSTN chairman Ajay Bhushan Pandey to talk about how the past year was on the technology side, role of Infosys, possibility of leveraging analytics and how the system is shaping up for the future
As the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime completes a year on July 1, the IT backbone of the network, the GST Network (GSTN), has gone through several ups and downs.
Moneycontrol caught up with GSTN chairman Ajay Bhushan Pandey to talk about the how the past year was for the technology side, the role of Infosys, the possibility of leveraging analytics and how the system is shaping up for the future.
Q: How has it been in the past one year for GSTN and what do you think are the biggest achievements?
A: The last one year has been the time of a great transformation, so far as this indirect tax of GST is concerned. Earlier, prior to GST, there were 25 different state (tax) systems, plus two central systems — service tax and excise.
All had different requirement, different interface, different forms. Now all of them were merged into one consolidated platform where one uniform system was evolved.
After the few teething troubles during the first few months, the system has started to stabilise from December-January onwards.
Approximately 60-70 lakh returns are filed every month, total number of returns which have been filed so far is more than 11 crore. Now our new portal can handle 1.30 lakh users simultaneously.
The total number of taxpayers who are registered into the GST system is more than 1.12 crore.
Another landmark that was achieved was the e-way bill. The total number of e-way bills that have been generated till recently is around 10 crore. Every day, around 15 lakh e-way bills are being generated. At least 30 lakh taxpayers have registered into our e-way bill system and approximately 12,000 transporters have registered for e-way bill. So, e-way bill has also been stabilised.
Q: How has Infosys been as a partner?
A: Overall, Infosys has been able to do most of the jobs which were assigned to it. Naturally, in any big contract, there will be some points where they may have scored more or less, but on a macro scale, if the system has achieved stability and has been implemented by Infosys, naturally it means that they have largely met their objectives.
Q: So they have engaged with you and taken feedback?
A: Whenever you implement a large project like this, it is necessary that we engage in a very constructive manner with our implementation partner and try and get work done out of them.
Q: The return filing system is also being prepared now. Are there challenges around that?
A: We are continuously trying to simplify the returns, and we are trying to come out with a single return system. The design for the return filing system has already been approved by the GST Council. Now appropriate changes in law and rules will have to be made and simultaneously we also have to change our IT system. So this will further simplify the return filing process.
Q: Small traders often face a lot of problems, because rules keep changing and not a lot of them can afford CAs or professionals. Is GST or GSTN taking any steps to make life simpler for these small traders?
A: Our intent and endeavour is to simplify the system. We are now trying to design this new system in a manner that one has to just upload the invoices. Once you upload the invoice, your return gets prepared automatically.
So, even if there is a small trader and he knows how to create an invoice, and if you can provide this facility of uploading it, the return gets prepared.
Our whole idea is that over a period of time, these traders themselves should be able to file the returns without any involvement of a professional each time.
Q: Will there be any training provided to these traders?
A: This is an ongoing exercise. We are also working with some tax accounting firms. We are also trying to see if some software can be released to those small traders who can use it to prepare invoices.
The idea is the simplify the returns, make returns contextual so that what is not relevant for a certain type of trader is not shown to them in their returns, and see if returns can get generated only by uploading invoices through some standard software.
Q: Are smaller IT accounting firms engaging with GSTN?
A: Accounting firms are presently undergoing certain RFP processes, and at an appropriate time, we will see who all can be roped into this task.
Q: Is there a plan to leverage all the data collected through analytics?
A: Since all this data is being generated, a lot of analytics can be performed such as finding pattern of tax paying, whether there are any corrective steps that need to be taken, if there is a particular industry where some more vigilance is required.
We could also see if there are some particular dealers who will require a closer look. This data is there and appropriate analysis of data will ultimately lead to better tax compliance.
The other thing analytics will help in is better policy formulation for the overall tax regime.
I definitely see a scope, given there is sale purchase activity and these transactions are getting recorded, so these things do point out certain economic activity. Specialists in this area will find out how to read interpret and use this data.
All those possibilities are there. It’s just the first year for GST, and for any meaningful data, you need certain comparisons to be made.
It is important to remember though that this data is confidential, it can’t be made available in the form it is collected. Certain macro data can be collected at an appropriate time when GST Council or the government decides.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in the near future?
A: We are trying to make it as simple as possible, so most people should be able to do it without any professional assistance. Particularly if GST filing is standardised, it eventually becomes part of their business activities.The endeavour is also to create an atmosphere of both trust and compliance. That is our challenge — how soon and how well we're able to do this.