Even as GST Network (GSTN) is busy addressing the technical glitches that thwarted implementation of the e-way bill mechanism — was to be rolled out from February 1 but was postponed till a date to be announced — and believes that it might take a couple of weeks to fix the problem, revenue-hungry states are putting pressure on the Centre to avoid any further delay in the use of the key anti-evasion tool. Gujarat has come out with a plan to implement the system from February 20 while Uttarakhand says it will have it rolled out on February 10 itself. Analysts said given that the crash of the e-way bill portal on February 1 led to stoppage of merchandise movements across the country, a non-synchronous launch of the system could cost the industry dear.
Officials sources, however, told FE that the dates announced by the two states are provisional and only meant to indicate to the businesses about a likely time-line. The dates could be changed once the Centre announces the final date. The National Informatics Center is learnt to have asked for two weeks for fixing the system. “Traders, manufacturers, businesses and transporters would have lost millions of dollars in the exercise (had the Centre not postponed the date promptly,” said Rajat Mohan, partner, AMRG & associates.
Under GST, its will become mandatory to carry an e-way bill, generated on the designated portal, for movement of goods beyond 10 kilometer having a value of more than Rs 50,000. The bill will have the details of the consignment along with supplier and recipient of goods, tax amount and mode of transport. It is expected that the measure will plug avenues for tax evasion, which the government believes is the major reason for dwindling GST revenue collection after the first three months.
Earlier, the mechanism for matching invoices between sellers and buyers, which is designed to eliminates over-invoicing, was suspended as the GST Network failed to handle the load. “Whether it was filing of GST returns or matching of tax credits or implementation of e-way Bills, one thing is evidenced beyond reasonable doubt, that technology is a major handicap with the GST department. With revenue collections falling every month, government needs to take stern steps and guarantee a conducive environment to taxpayers for seamless compliance structure which would eventually propel the use of big data analysis in catching the tax evaders,” Mohan added.
Meanwhile, the Centre has budgeted monthly GST collection of close to Rs 62,000 crore in FY19, notwithstanding the fact that its share of GST collected so far has been less than Rs 45,000 crore/month. The e-way bill provision was originally slated to be implemented from April but after reports of massive evasion, it was decided to advance its roll-out. Sushil Kumar Modi, Bihar deputy chief minister had said that Bihar may have lost close to Rs 10,000 crore in revenue in the first three months due to absence of a system to check cargo movements. During the trial period from January 16 to 30, the e-way bill system proved to be reasonably robust but on the first day with full load, it collapsed. As many as 13 states had also mandated e-way bill for intra-state movement even though the deadline for the same was till June. This, experts said, may have led to the excess pressure on the system.
“The Government may consider to first start with e-way bill only for inter-State movements of goods and later on, expand the system to intra-State movements as well,” PwC said in a statement.During the fortnight of trial-run, the portal had generated 28.4 lakh e-way bills were generated including 3.4 lakh bill on January 30, GSTN had said. It had estimated that nearly 7-8 lakh bill would be generated in a steady-state condition once it became mandatory.