Persistent glitches in the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) portal, a dysfunctional grievance redressal mechanism and numerous complaints have made life difficult for traders and led to much chaos, according to the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), the traders’ wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is a leading advocacy group working for small traders and businesses in the country, with around six crore merchants linked to it.

Criticising the underperformance of the GSTN, Praveen Khandelwal, national secretary general of CAIT and former treasurer of the BJP’s Delhi unit, said, “GST has become a nightmare for traders, because of the utter failure of the GSTN portal, which has not delivered as per expectations. At the time of filing returns, the GSTN portal is either found to be non-responsive or shows errors. On the other hand, despite having less knowledge of the basics and fundamentals of GST and its compliance obligations, as far as migration from the previous tax network to the GST is concerned, traders have done well.”

Khandelwal also sought the extensive participation of the traders in the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) proposed to be formed by the Finance Minister later this month. “Traders and consumers are in a quandary; therefore, an educational campaign and a technology audit of the GSTN portal are the need of the hour. Traders should be given representation in the proposed IMC,” Khandelwal told The Sunday Guardian.

On the condition of anonymity, an economic consultant said, “The GST Council had decided that the dates for payment and filing of returns for July 2017 would be pushed to August 2017, only because GSTN was not ready. But the Revenue Department shifted the blame to the unpreparedness of the taxpayers for the extension of the due dates for the filing of GST-returns (GSTRs), which is not in accordance with the GST rules.”

GSTR 1 for July 2017 was supposed to be filed by 5 September 2017. The dates for filing of GSTR were extended after the meeting of the GST Council held in Hyderabad on 9 September. The Council extended the filing of GSTRs 1, 2 and 3 for July 2017, to 10 October, 31 October and 10 November 2017, respectively.

Gopal Krishna Agarwal, national spokesperson on economic issues of the BJP, denied any chaos on the ground, but accepted that traders were facing problems in filing GSTR. He said that the government was taking all the necessary steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the GSTN network.

“Changes in the tax regime on such a large scale in a country like India, are bound to face some technical problems, but the government is coming up with measures to check these problems. The Ministry of Finance has extended the due dates for the filing of GSTR and it has also proposed the formation of an inter ministerial committee, which will look into matters related to all such issues faced by traders, as well as consumers,” Agrawal told The Sunday Guardian.

Sachin Bhatia, chief executive officer of Metro Infrasys, a consultancy firm, said, “Not only traders, even exporters are suffering because of the ill-managed GSTN. As per the proposed plan, any exporter who has paid the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) was supposed to receive his/her refund immediately, but in the present scenario, it is all held up because GSTN does not have an interconnected module.”

According to tax experts, at present those who are filing GSTR 1 are the multinational corporations and this may send a wrong signal to major assesses in the GST net.

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