While the mood is extremely ballistic among all the key stakeholders following the passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) constitutional amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, the discussion now has shifted to how soon the bill shall become operational.
Even as key officials from the government are more or less optimistic about meeting the scheduled 1 April 2017 deadline for the rollout, others feel the GST implementation could be delayed further by few more months.
But the government is leaving no stone unturned, and all the IT-related infrastructure besides imparting training to revenue officials are being carried out in a big way to ensure smooth rollout of this key reform.
As per the detailed GST rollout roadmap prepared by Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, the IT infrastructure framework will be ready by March 2017 and a massive outreach and industry sensitisation programme will also be carried out.
Among the key work being carried out for rollout of his new indirect tax regime by April 2017, the government has indicated that around 60,000 revenue officials of central and state governments will be trained on GST laws.
Once the training on GST laws get completed by this year end, Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) -- a non-government company set up by the Centre and states to provide shared IT framework and services to central and state governments, tax payers and other stakeholders -- will then train them on the related IT infrastructure by March 2017.
In fact, the CEO of GSTN, Prakash Kumar, recently said testing of the software is likely to start by October and a beta launch of the GST portal is planned for February, Economic Times report said on Wednesday.
"It will be tested by a chosen group of tax professionals, officers and businesses," said Kumar, ET report said quoting Kumar, a former executive of Microsoft.
To run and develop the GSTN project worth Rs 1,380 crore, Infosys, India's second-largest software company, has been assigned the task.
Apart from that, the revenue department has already started stakeholder consultation with the industry in Hyderabad and Jaipur.
The IT network of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), banks, RBI, state accounting authorities and states will be ready by December-end 2016, according to the road map and the testing and integration of the IT backbone of all stakeholders is slated for January–March 2017.
To make life easier in the new regime, the Revenue Department has said no fresh registration will be needed for the existing dealers. Existing VAT/ service tax/ central excise dealer data are to migrate to the GST architecture.
However, the tax department has retained some key functions with itself, such as audit and enforcement, as well as adjudication and recovery. Under GST, only around 3-5% taxpayers are expected to be picked up for scrutiny, so for balance 95% the interaction with the tax department is expected to end at the portal itself, the ET report said.
As for new dealers, a single application will be filed online and registration will be granted within three days.
On GST returns, only one filing will be required for both the Centre and state governments.
Average taxpayers will be using only four forms for filing returns -- supplies, return for purchases, monthly and annual returns.
While supplies return will be filed on the 10th of every month incorporating the list of suppliers, the same data will be incorporated in the purchase return which will have to be filed on 15th of every month.
These data will be then get populated in the monthly and annual returns and the assessee will just have to sign and send it to the tax department, Adhia said.
Sensing opposition from few parties, including the Congress party, the government may opt to go ahead and take the Money Bill route instead of Finance Bill to fasten the GST process rollout, a Business Standard report said.
In short, the procedure of passage of Money Bills gives greater powers to Lok Sabha than Rajya Sabha. At the current stage, the Congress has a majority in Rajya Sabha, and hence would not like to deal with a Money Bill.
With PTI inputs