Raghavendra Pal Singh, IRS (C&IT)
MBMA is an incentive scheme which seeks to trigger a behavioral change in the consumers for demanding an invoice from the supplier of goods and services as a right and entitlement. It has been launched since 1st September,2023, on pilot basis by Central government in collaboration with the States of Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, UTs of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and Puducherry for a period of 1 year. The incentives to consumers are attractive in the form of two bumper draws of Rs. 1 Cr. (quarterly), 10 monthly draws of Rs. 10 lac and 800 monthly draws of Rs. 10,000.
Mobile app (available on Google play store/App store) and web (web.merabill.gst.gov.in) based participation in the scheme is made very simple. Only one-time registration on the app/web is required on the basis of mobile number of the person. Post registration, any resident of India can upload the valid tax invoices (B2C only) of minimum value of Rs 200 on the app/web. Such invoices should be issued by any supplier registered in any of the following States only i.e. Assam, Gujarat, Haryana and UTs of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and Puducherry. In simple terms, only those invoices will be eligible in the draw whose suppliers’ GSTIN number starts with digits 18 (Assam) or 24 (Gujrat) or 06 (Haryana) or 34 (Puducherry) or 26 (UTs of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu). Therefore, the invoices issued by any registered supplier belong to State other than the above mentioned States would not be eligible for the draw of prize. The attached graphic explains it lucidly.
The valid invoices issued by the supplier registered in any of the above mentioned States/UTs during a month (say September) must be uploaded by the consumer on the mobile app/web up to 5th day of the following month (i.e. October). However maximum 25 Invoices can be uploaded by a person in a single month. At the time of uploading the invoice, mobile app will automatically capture the information and autofill the required fields however the participants would be required to cross verify the correctness of auto populated fields such as GSTIN of supplier, Invoice number, value and date, Tax amount involved, Mode of payment used for that particular invoice i.e. cash or e-payment, State of the recipient etc. On uploading the invoice, a unique acknowledgement reference number (ARN) will be generated, which would be used for draw of prizes subject to certain conditions.
After the announcement of winner, the winning persons would be informed and may be required to upload additional details like PAN number(to deduct applicable TDS), Aadhaar number, Bank account details etc through the app/web, within a certain period for enabling transfer of the winning prize money through the said bank account.
Participation in the scheme is laden with multiple benefits for the consumers as It provides opportunity to become a compliance agents for the government and contributing in Nation building. Other than this, the app/web would act as a repository of an Invoice for future references in the form of safety Kavach as without an invoice, the consumers cannot protect their rights in case of any fraud or claim guarantee/warranty for the product or any action in case of any health/security hazard.
In many cases when the customer demands invoice, he /she may be motivated by the seller to not to ask for the invoice in return of sharing a part of tax saved amount or just by creating a perception about the money (tax) potentially saved if tax invoice is not issued. However, such unrecorded transactions adversely impact consumer interest and safety in the long run, besides being hazardous to tax administration. The nature of the business among B2C transactions in GST remains similar to the erstwhile tax regime. The fact that the final consumer does not actually need invoice due to no ITC availability to him/her makes the situation more challenging for the formal economy.
Therefore, in case of B2C transactions, chances of suppression and consequent evasion of tax by the supplier are very high, as even if the invoice is issued but not reported, it’s practically impossible to track it. Such B2C supplies have been challenging for the tax administration across the globe, including in India, as these are easy to suppress. This justifies the launch of MBMA to educate the consumer coupled with handsome incentives.
To promote B2C compliance, similar prize schemes have been operated in India by State Governments of Kerala (‘Lucky Bill’ scheme since August 2022) and Delhi (Bill Banao Inaam Pao” in the VAT era). Punjab has also recently launched similar scheme (Bill liao inaam pao). Some other states are also in the process to launch such incentive schemes. Such reward schemes have also been introduced by a number of Countries, such as Taiwan in 1951, Malta in 1997, Slovakia in 2013, Georgia in 2010, Portugal in 2014, etc.
During the implementation of the scheme, there may be some challenges e.g. uploading of ineligible invoices, verification of actual owner of winning invoice, technical glitches, disbursement of prize money on time etc which would be sorted out by implementing agency for sure.
The announcement of winners for September, 2023 has already been made. So far more than 1.2 million app have been downloaded with lakhs of invoices uploaded for the on-going month of November. I believe that more and more people will take advantage of this scheme and through these initiatives, over a period of time, the culture of ‘asking a bill’ would be developed among the general population which would make them a proud contributor and partner in nation-building. On successful outcome of this pilot, MBMA might be launched at National level with more grandeur and larger prize pool.
(Disclaimer:- The Writer is an IRS (C&IT) officer and posted as Director/Additional Commissioner, GST Policy Wing, Ministry of Finance, New Delhi. The views are personal.)