Goods and Services tax (GST) or as our Prime Minister likes to call it ‘Good and Simple tax’ regime has been the center point of conversations and discussions across all business, political and media circles for over half a year now.
From a phase of pre-emption to discussions around actual roll-out, to analyses of possible impact across sectors etc., enough and more aspects have been deliberated upon by experts from different spheres. But, now the needle is shifting towards discovery of possible ways of implementing the regime and considerations around most effective tools for easy compliance with the changed law are on the rise.
While most businesses have surface level understanding of the changes, only few large corporates have the knowledge and wherewithal to evaluate multiple solutions being offered in the market to adapt the best suited technology for effective compliance. The smaller players are facing multiple challenges not only in understanding various facets and nuances of GST regime, but they are also clueless on how to go about choosing the right partner who may hand hold them through the process for seamless transition.
Different businesses have different requirements and all GST Suvidha Providers (GSPs) and Application Service Providers (ASPs) are working towards developing customized solutions which are best suited to a specific player’s needs. From offering invoice volume based adaptation models to coming up with duration specific packages, there is no dearth of variety in market today. Yet, due to technology intensive nature of solutions, most players are not in a place to evaluate which partner or solution to go for.
From technology back up, to billing model, to storage capacity, to additional in-built capabilities, numerous features when put together, make for a holistic GST solution. While different players are making different promises and trying to gain a greater share of the pie, here are few aspects which corporates, SMEs, tax professionals or individual businesses should keep in mind when choosing a partner:
1. Maintaining annual records: There are various solutions in the market currently which are offering duration based solutions for limited months like a quarter or six months, but we cannot afford to forget that all businesses will need to file annual returns. If a business operates on a solution which is for six months and switches to some other solution later, it should have the assurance of seamless records transfer. Similarly, there are players who are charging clients on the basis of duration of association, for such associations, cost of further extension of record keeping should be budgeted in when planning to partner with a solution provider
2. Offline and online capabilities: The new GST regime is completely digital in nature and adapting to internet enabled technology solution is a pre-requisite. But, it would not be prudent for solution providers to overlook limited or no internet connectivity in majority small towns and villages of India which are a hub of SMEs and MSMEs and therefore we cannot do away with offline capabilities completely. It is equally important for your partner to have offline capabilities to store invoice records which may be updated on regular intervals. This would ensure that tax professionals have the flexibility of updating and editing data anytime at their convenience. Additionally, as GST regime is like a chain linked through the entire business transaction cycle, many a times there would be requirements to go back and forth to check, update and manage records and entries and offline capabilities would ensure that working in this domain is possible without pushing the data out.
3. Plug and play model: The solution which a business opts for should offer the flexibility of usage in terms of data entry like – possibility of importing data in multiple formats ranging from manual entry to excel based imports etc. Additionally, it should offer the choice between entering data on the cloud and keeping it there to make further edits or saving it directly on GSTN. Essentially, the solution should offer flexibility of operation which would enable plug and play and reduce adaptation time.
4. 24X7 support and real time infrastructure upgrade: despite opting for the easiest to implement technology solution, tax practitioner, businesses or any other user when operating a new system, may have queries or require hand holding. Therefore, an infrastructure to handle such queries in form of a multi-linguistic call center or real-time support by trainer professionals in form of free demonstrations, regular counselling and personal visits, or in-built assisted return filling model etc would be much required. These solutions would essentially be needed for tier II and III towns which are a hub for SMEs and MSMEs.
5. Possibility of pre and post filing reconciliation: While GST regime makes the entire taxation model fairly effective but for many players who are used to the traditional format of functioning, this technology enabled advancement is limiting. Data once filed with GSTN cannot be edited, for many players who have a complicated supply chain or who work with multiple vendors, there is a huge chance of invoice mismatches or other gaps in overall transactions which would only be reconciled after returns are filled. But, there are many players which are offering enhanced features in their tax filing solutions and pre-filing reconciliation is one of those critical feature which would ensure faster follow ups and closures for reduced mismatches.
There are multiple models of operating with the GSTN and GSPs are mainly offering 3 to 4 kinds of solutions so far. These include API based billing model, MB consumption based fee structure, GSTIN based fee and per CA / tax practitioner. While most businesses can predict their invoicing nature and work-load to opt for the best suited solution, but it is best to select a solution provider who offers flexibility of switching from one model to the other so that a business may function on one model and choose to move to the other in case required, with no additional charge or formality.
Apart from the above mentioned points, there are various other aspects which should be analyzed and evaluated before selecting a GST implementation partner. Going by the cheapest available solutions or being lured by free trials and monthly subscriptions or even sticking to well-known old and renowned players just for their brand equity, may not be the best way to forge partnerships in this domain. Technology capabilities with experience and expertise in on-ground implementation, complimented with direct presence across key cities throughout the nation are some pre-requisites which would help you identify the right partner for your business
Article courtesy of : Mr. Ankit Agarwal (Managing Director at Alankit Limited)