In a bid to reduce the compliance burden of businesses, the GST Council has simplified and rationalised return filing requirements. This comes after several indirect tax officers faced difficulties after being asked to fill up a six-page form for the first time.
The government has given out forms meant for nearly 65 lakh companies. The GST Network portal can be accessed only by these companies, which have to file their returns regularly after the end of every month. The portal has been designed in such a way that it requires any company or person to have a login ID and password to fill up the form, which is voluminous at 2,300 pages.
The exercise was to give officers a feel of what businesses go through when they have to fill forms under the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Even officers who worked on the GST law in Parliament, and had prepared draft rules, were left foxed. They scratched their heads for about 15 minutes before finally getting down to work. The outcome: an apprehension that taxpayers too would face difficulties due to technical glitches in filing returns.
The exercise was to check if the process had been simplified enough, if the forms needed more fields, and whether there were any glitches that needed fixing. As it turned out, almost all of them were left scratching their heads while filling up the forms. This was because all their training had been on how to calculate tax payable, not in how to fill up a form and pay it.
It is being done to ensure that the understanding of the administrative structure is there. As I said, it was surprising to know that even senior departmental officials are unable to fill up these forms. They have been asked to try and see how much time they take and what sort of difficulties they face in doing so.
The officers were given a few hours, but many of them couldn’t even figure out how to start. They were stumped by the first form and were unable to fill it out as it demanded precise data on regular purchases and bill payments among other things. Some of them couldn’t get through successive pages.