THE Centre asked other states to replicate Maharashtra’s model of fully computerising its sales tax department before GST is introduced in April 2011. Full computerisation has not only helped the state win accolades, but also has resulted in higher tax collections.
Maharashtra has a wide base of traders, small entrepreneurs who need to pay sales tax. Of the 6 lakh dealers across the state, over 2 lakh have turnover above Rs 40 lakh and hence need to file audited returns of their transactions that involved filling up an 80-page form. “My office used to handle never-ending queues of traders. Now no one come here. Everything is done online,” says state’s sales tax commissioner Sanjay Bhatia.
Mr Bhatia invited wrath of many who had vested interests in the old system. But he stuck to his plan. “Those 80-page forms straightway headed for godowns. It’s impossible to go through it. It was ridiculous to have such an archaic system. Many opposed (the computerisation drive) initially, but now everyone has accepted it.”
The sales tax department now boasts of electronic refund applications, online registrations, e-payments, electronic audits etc. “It took three months of tireless efforts to streamline the system. We opened thousands of helpdesks across the state to help sales tax payers. Now almost all of them have been closed as tax payers and staffers have adopted the change,” Mr Bhatia said.
Impressed by his achievements, the Union finance ministry asked him to give presentation to all northern states on December 14 last year to be followed by one for the eastern states in Kolkata on December 17. Similar programs were organised in Chennai on January 9 and January 19 in Mumbai for southern and western states, respectively. Asim Dasgupta, West Bengal finance minister and chairman of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers too has taken interest in the exercise.
“Except Kerala no other state has been able achieve what we have done,” he said. “At least on this we are way ahead of Gujrat,” he noted.