Dr. Sanjiv Agarwal, FCA, FCS
Much has happened in India in the last fortnight, more particularly, the thumping majority victory for the ruling NDA Government at the centre and new Government being sworn in on 30th May, 2019 for next five years. While this may reflect the endorsement of NDA policies and reforms and also reflect people’s expectations from this Government to perform yet better till 2024, one thing is for sure – India may see continuity of economic policies and reforms besides there been faster pace of reforms taking India in neo-growth zone.
The portfolio of new Ministers in Modi led Government has been decided with first ever lady, Mrs. Nirmala Sitaraman getting the Finance Ministry independently with Corporate Affairs, Piyush Goyal getting Railways, Commerce & Industry, Amit Shah gets Home, Raj Nath Singh gets defence, Nitin Gadkari gets transport and MSME. The Parliament session starts on 17th June, 2019 with Economic Survey to be laid on 4th July, 2019 and Union Budget 2019-20 for full year to be presented on 5th July, 2019.
The issues confronting the new Government are manifold – social as well as economical and fiscal (not really political in near future). Besides expectation of below – normal monsoon and drinking water problem, Government may have to address some major fiscal issues such as to trigger growth of industries and agricultural, more particularly MSME sector, to keep inflation under control, meet disinvestment targets, reforms in banking, aviation and NPA management and transformation in IT / telecom / health care / education …….may be some of the few ones to quote. Unemployment, fiscal deficit, core sector growth, agricultural boost- up are some other areas which require attention.
The Ministry of Finance and PMO should presently be more concerned with addressing the economic slowdown and take steps to enhance GDP numbers. Income tax jig-up to have all new business friendly tax reforms is also needed. GST has been in trouble since day one and there is a need to relook at GST from an all new perspective to have rationalization of rates, inclusion of left out sectors into GST regime, simplify processes and offer a hassle free taxpayer friendly GST mechanism so that it is a win-win for all stakeholders-Government, revenue collector, businessmen, professionals and consumers.
GST Council should now seriously think of including petroleum products, electricity, and real estate in GST ambit. If alcoholic liquor can also be subsumed, it would be indeed a great achievement.
All along, GSTN has been blamed for all technical glitches and non-compliances. It is high time now so much so that let there be a cooling period for all GST filings and GSTN be given some time to redesign, redevelop and realign its IT platform. There would be many other rationalization measures which will be taken by the GST Council in near future. The re restructured GST Council may meet in later part of June, 2019, much before Union Budget 2019-20.
Of late, court decisions are dominating the interpretation world in GST regime. Recently, Telengana High Court decided that taxpayers will have to pay interest on gross amount (without setting off ITC) on delayed payments / adjustment, while on similar issue Delhi High Court stayed the recovery of interest. The powers of officers to arrest defaulting tax payers without FIR is being reviewed by Supreme Court.
The last date of filing GST annual return (Forms GSTR-9 and 9C) is 30th June, 2019, after getting extended many times. Infact as of now, we don’t know whether it is for another extension to some date in July, 2019 ? Quite possible. The fact of the matter is that assessees and professionals are finding it difficult to understand and file the returns so much so that Government is busy issuing clarifications now when the last date is approaching. And this is for financial year 2017-18. The annual returns / audit for financial year 2018-19 will fell due in next quarter.
So far as GST collections are concerned, the revenue has surpassed ‘one lakh crore’ mark yet again in May, 2019, third month in row, which indicates stabilization of revenue collection. It has been Rs. 1,00,289 crore as against Rs. 94,016 crore in May, 2018. April, 2019 saw an all time high collection Rs. 1,13,000 crore with GST targets for financial year 2019-20 being higher by 35% over previous year (Rs. 4.5 trillion in 2019, Rs. 6.10 trillion in 2020). Tax Collectors are expected to be rough and tough with tax evaders. Income tax and GSTN have already entered into a MOU for sharing of information.
It is expected that GST law and rules may once again go for substantial overhaul and make over to be more taxpayer’s friendly piece of legislation.