The staff and officials at the GST Network (GSTN), the IT backbone of the GST, are apparently disappointed at the government's decision to junk the new GST return format as all their efforts over a year or two go in vain.
The government recently decided against implementing the new return format and instead stuck to the existing one with some improvements like introduction of GSTR 2B form and detailed GSTR1 and GSTR 3B forms.
The GSTN has been working on the implementation of the new return format since December 2018, when it started back-office training of state GST officials on the modules of the new returns. In May 2019, it made available the prototype of new return offline tool for taxpayers. In July same year, the trial version of the offline tool of the new return was introduced, and with the release of the online (trial) version of the New Return (Trial) on the GST Portal, the GSTN began its outreach programme to familiarise stakeholders with it.
In the succeeding months, it organised several training sessions for tax officials and taxpayers across the country. GSTN organised around 72 training sessions on new GST returns, and trained close to 3,500 tax officials and taxpayers/tax consultants each in 2019-20.
It tied up with industry bodies like FICCI, CII, PHDCCI at many cities to organise training and outreach programmes for taxpayers so that they beccme familiar with the new system.
This was all preceded by almost a year-long discussion at the GST Council, where various stakeholders - technology partners, tax experts and taxpayers - gave their inputs.
Under the proposed new return system, form GSTR 1, GSTR 2A and GSTR 3B were to be replaced by new forms Anx1 and Anx2, and Ret, respectively. Return filings were to be done in a staggered manner. For big taxpayers with annual turnover of Rs 5 crore or more, the last day for filing returns was proposed to be 20th of every month. For small taxpayers with annual turnover of less than Rs 5 crore, the due date would have been 25th of every month. Those with less than Rs 5 crore turnover could have filed their returns quarterly.
In a departure from the existing system, under the new scheme the plan was to have only one due date in a month. There were no separate filings for Anx1, Anx2 and Ret. Currently, the due date for GSTR-1 is 11th, GSTR2A 15th, and GSTR-3B is 20th of every month. But under the new system, the moment one files one's Ret (equivalent of GSTR-3B under the new system), the Anx-1 (GSTR-1 equivalent) and Anx-2 (GSTR-2A equivalent) deemed to have been filed.
Mekhla Anand, tax partner in law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, says it is surprising that after working for so long on the new return system, the government dropped the idea of implementing it. "We don't know in the first place why it wanted to replace the existing system, and now after working for so long on it suddenly they decided to do away with it," she adds.
MS Mani, indirect tax partner at Deloitte India, however, feels that it is a right move to not introduce any big changes as far as compliance is concerned. "Businesses are focussing on restarting and reviving their operations and at a time like this, any major change in the compliance is unwarranted," he says.