The Goods and Services Tax (GST) can bring about a radical shift in tax compliance that would transform entire the business landscape. GST can cause a host of temporary inconveniences that have business owners worried. Here is a lowdown on what could ail business owners in the transition phase:
Increase in operating costs
GST will be on a digital platform from its inception. Further, the GST format is exhaustive and changes invoicing formats, collection of data, bookkeeping and claiming of input tax credit. Business processes at every stage from procurement of raw materials to distribution must be conducive to the new requirements. Companies may have to incur significant costs that in overhauling software and training cadre, which will increase its overhead expenses. Large business organisations have been readying themselves for GST by consulting tax, software, finance and legal experts. Small businesses however, are dreading the change as the will now need full time accountants along with change in software to comply with the new GST norms.
Inclusion of manufacturing SMEs in tax bracket and multiple registration
Under the current tax laws, manufacturers with a turnover of ₹1.5 crores are required to pay excise duty. With GST however, this turnover limit has been reduced to ₹ 20 lakhs. This has a lot of small manufacturers worried as they must register on GST network (GSTN) and comply with the new GST rules. GST being a destination-based tax will require companies to register in all the states that they are operating in. This further increase compliance costs for small businesses.
Unfair parity of small businesses with larger peers
Almost all SMEs have an online presence in the present day. They sell goods across the country either through their own websites or third party websites. Under GST they will not only have to register in multiple locations, those outside the threshold of Rs.20-50 lakh turnover will not be eligible for a composition scheme. Thus, paying taxes like any large organisation. The composition scheme is only available for manufacturers of goods and not service providers. This has put a lot of service providers in the online space in a quandary.
Absence of anti-inflationary measures
International experience with the implementation of GST in various countries over the past two decades has enough evidence of increased inflation. Countries such as Singapore and Malaysia that introduced GST have had to introduce anti-profiteering measures and keeping tabs on prices to protect consumers. Indian authorities, however, remain confident that inflation will not rise because of GST implementation. Thus, no anti-inflationary measures have been introduced, that business owners and economists believe are an inevitable side-effect of GST.
To sum it up
While these concerns are valid, the positives of GST far outweigh the negatives. The initial challenges notwithstanding, GST must be looked at as an opportunity to operate in more transparent tax regime. This might streamline compliance process by subsuming the currently prevalent multiple taxes and enhance ease of doing business. These may also translate into permanent gains and boost the economy in the long run.