Even as the government is pushing for roll out of Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 1 July, the preparedness of the GST Network (GSTN) --the company with the responsibility of building and maintaining the IT infrastructure for the new tax regime -- remains an issue of concern for many stakeholders including the state governments.
In the last GST Council meeting on 3 June, executives from GSTN made detailed presentation on the amount of work done and the IT preparedness. Members of the GST council raised many issues and asked questions with regards to the level of preparation. Though GSTN has expressed its confidence that it is fully ready with the work it has been assigned, not everyone is fully satisfied.
Speaking to media after the GST council meeting, West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra told reporters that given the fact that three billion invoices would be uploaded every month on GST network, he was not fully satisfied with GSTN's preparation. "They have done trial runs on only 100-200 companies and even during those trial runs, many challenges were faced in uploading invoices," he says.
He further said that the GSTN has so far given approval to only 34 GST Suvidha Providers (GSPs), which would help mostly smaller companies and traders uploading data on GST network. "Given the millions of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in the country, many of which would come under the tax net for the first time, 34 GSPs is a very small number to begin with," says Mitra.
Prakash Kumar, CEO, GSTN, however, had a different view even though he sounded confident that they would be fully prepared with the IT network before GST roll out on 1 July.
He said that GSTN has done one trial run in May with 3,200 tax payers across the country. He said that there were minor issues raised by the users and they had already resolved those issues.
"We had given an offline tool, which did not work on older 32-bit computers. We had to take care of that so that it worked on machines which were 4-5 years old," Kumar said. There was another issue pointed out by users with the excel sheet on GSTN portal.
"In excel, where a 8-digit date -- 01/04/2017 -- was getting converted to 1/4/2017 and the system would not accept a 6-digit date. So that was a problem which we have fixed," says Kumar.
He said there were other minor suggestions regarding placement of icons, etc, which they had already implemented.
He said that the purpose of the beta testing was not to test the load of the systems but to resolve functional issues, if any, and take suggestions from users.
"We have a different test for the load, where we simulate the same size or quantity of load hitting the system. That is done separately and that is called stress testing," said the GSTN CEO.
Typically, the thumb rule is to test the systems for load on the last day of, say, filing returns or uploading invoices. So, Kumar said that they were testing the system on 60% load assuming that those many people would file their returns on the last day.
He said that their system could take the load of 50,000 queries posted per second.
The number of people logged in at a time is different from the number of people hitting the system at a time. May be 10 lakh or 15 lakh people are logged in at a time but only some of them are pressing a command. Our systems can take 50,000 such commands every second and that is a huge number.
On the issue of GSPs, Prakash Kumar said that they had received application from 160 more players for GSPs. However, approval to new GSPs would only be possible after 1 July.
Meanwhile, Prakash Kumar said that 62 lakh taxpayers out of 80 lakh, registered for VAT, central excise and service tax, have also registered with GSTN.