The GST Practitioner - Part II
By G Mohana Rao, Assistant Commissioner (Retd.)
ON the subject, in my earlier article, I had opined that the GST Practitioner scheme can play an important role in the implementation of GST. The minimum qualification for a GSTP is a degree in commerce. Besides, department can also allow any other examination also to be sufficient for granting enrolment as GSTP.
GSTP scheme, if nurtured well, could have been an excellent employment opportunity. In this direction, some effort appears to have been done. National Skill Council of India is training a large number of commerce graduates in GST so as to make them employable as GSTP. Some States are also working on this facet. Gujarat State has taken license as GST Suvidha Provider and are training thousands of persons having commerce degree under its "GST Saheli " project- slated as a bridge between GSTN and the taxpayer. The project is launched through Gujarat Livelihood Promotion Company Ltd (GLPC) and Self Help employment training institutes. The GLPC has also become a GST Suvidha Provider (GSP) and is providing GST related software and services for a fee to micro and small industries. The effort is laudable. However, it appears all this may not solve the issue. All efforts in this direction may go in vain. They may show the effort as their achievements, but real achievement is only when the scheme results in meaningful employments which appears to be not possible even remotely in the present situation. It's a pity that well intentioned efforts are wasted due to lack of proper planning. As they say- "Failure to plan is planning to fail".
If a product is not good enough, any amount of effort in marketing, showcasing etc. will not work. Movies with the best of actors, very high investments, and excellent marketing fail if the product itself is not good. There are numerous examples to it. First the product should be very good – marketing, etc. can work as further facilitator. The product- GSSTP/GSP itself is not lucrative enough to provide employment to a large number of people. In fact, the scheme appears to have been designed hurriedly without much thought going into it. GSTP can only file returns - other functions like registration, representing before government, amendments, filing refunds on behalf of registered persons etc are not there in their curriculum. Return mechanism itself has failed. From three returns or more per month, we are back to one return. The process and mechanism for the same too is yet to be finalised. The compliance work in GST regime appears to be a temporary work.
I am not able to convince a single person on the benefits of enrolling as GSTP. The companies are not likely to move away from their regular CAs to give work to GSTPs. There is an issue of privacy and data security as well. The companies may not be comfortable in sharing their data with these GSTPs for fear of losing the same to their competitors, since invoice level data is also to be submitted on the GST portal.
The GSTP scheme too appears to have fizzled out. The utility provided by GSTN is sufficient to file returns of a company having even one lakh invoices. Need for a GSTP is not there. In order to have linkages with GSTP, investments are required to be made. GSTP is not cost effective at all.
The government should first re-look into the whole scheme of GSTPs, make it lucrative enough so people, be it CAs, Advocates and commerce graduates- flock towards applying for the scheme, and then popularise the same through their outreach programmes so as to give it a semblance of success.
The government should come out with a viable GSTP scheme with proper software linkages between taxpayer, GSTP and GST portal so that proper risks and responsibilities can be fixed. If a GSTP is allowed to do other compliances through the GST portal and not through the via media of sharing of user id and password, being done by some companies- which itself is dangerous in terms of data security for companies themselves and trustworthiness of the GSTPs. The government should come out with detailed training modules, may be in collaboration with reputed educational institutions through their own institutions like NACIN, and improve the real skills of such persons so as to provide them real gainful employment. While doing so, they should be encouraged to sharpen their skills in accounting etc. as well. Further trainings should be a regular feature with minimum number of days/hours mandatory for every GSTP. The GSTP license to a person should bring a lot of trust and faith in the companies taking the services of such GSTPs like a good brand brings the confidence along with it. Of course, all this will take time and evolve over time. However, a beginning has to be made by creating a well-planned, discussed, deliberated and thought out scheme. Only then, such schemes can really convert the intentions intoreal benefits!!!
(The author is Managing Partner, Elysian Tax Advisors, Mumbai and the views expressed above are strictly personal.)
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