GST-registered businesses that have reported decline in annual revenue by 20% or more over the previous year have received a flurry of notices over the last few weeks from the tax department, sources in the know told FE. While notices related to mismatch in declaration between GSTR-3B (summary return) and GSTR-1 (outward supplies detail) were common earlier, the department is now comparing firms’ earning under GST with that of erstwhile service and excise regime.
The notices have asked businesses to produce relevant documents and explain the reasons for decline in sales. The department believes that many such cases could point to possible evasion under the new indirect tax regime. Sources said that the government is sitting on a pile of data that wasn’t available to them before GST. This is further aided by integration of information from Customs and direct tax department. The GST IT system is now throwing up many red flags when tax returns under different tax regimes are compared.
However, the spate of notices are also targeting businesses that have genuine reasons for declining revenue which includes a slowing economy. In one instance, a service provider for multinational companies received a notice but its revenue had slacked due to expiry of certain contracts. In another notice seen by FE, the taxpayer was asked to produce input tax credit documents as it had paid a substantial portion of tax liability through accumulated tax credit.
“While genuine businesses are not worried over these notices, it does raise the cost of doing businesses for them,” Rajat Mohan, partner at AMRG & Associates, said. He explained that replying to notice under GST requires professionals and could cost as much as `1 lakh while earlier, the tax laws had been around for some years and most replies followed a set pattern that didn’t require professional intervention.
Although the GST system generates a lot of data to track evasion, the absence of a full-fledged return system means that there are areas prone to exploitation through fake invoices for claiming additional credit and bringing down tax liability. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report tabled in Parliament recently pointed this out. The new return system is likely to come into force only from next year.
Meanwhile, tax department has estimated that evasion worth as much `1.2 lakh crore may have taken place under GST regime. An official said that while the government had detected evasion worth over `12,000 crore since GST came into force two years ago, rule of thumb suggested that such detection were only 10% of the actual evasion taking place. The GST collection for central government in FY19 fell short of target by over `60,000 crore.
This prompted the government to set relatively modest budget estimate for the current fiscal at `11.89 lakh crore. This translates into an average monthly collection of just below `1 lakh crore. In the first four months of FY 20, the collection have kept pace with the required rate.