The tax department is finding it difficult to effectively enforce the e-way bill system in the GST regime due to lack of precise intelligence from the centralised system, forcing tax officials to randomly deploy manpower for intercepting vehicles. Officials on the ground say the current enforcement system may yield sporadic results at best as evaders are likely to find a way to dodge inspections.
At the same time, random inspections are also threatening to delay movement of goods, contrary to the GST theme of easing transportation of goods and check post hurdles.
Currently, tax officials take positions at different routes in their jurisdictions usually late in the evening when trucks are allowed to enter cities. However, officials say once they stop a vehicle, the word goes around about inspection, resulting in many evaders changing their routes.
“We are testing the water by trying to intercept vehicles on national highway one day and a state highway the next day. Although, we have been able to catch a few culprits, the random system needs to be institutionalised on the basis on intelligence received from the e-way bill system run by National Informatics Centre (NIC),” a central tax official said on the condition of anonymity.
Another senior official said random checks could also end up giving undue discretionary power to officials, a situation which often leads to harassment and corruption. Given that the e-way bill system has only been around for just over three months, it doesn’t have enough data to cull out the evasion pattern. “We will need data for at least 8-10 months for running analytics, but tax officials and NIC are exchanging feedback on the system already,” Prakash Kumar, CEO of the GST Network (GSTN), said.
The GSTN is already providing officials with large volume of data on non-filers, transitional credit claims and comparative data of mismatch between GSTR-3B (summary returns) and GSTR-1 (outward supply details) for specific taxpayers. Officials say they would need similarly structured intelligence to effectively enforce e-way bill.
E-way bill was rolled out over three months ago on April 1 for inter-state movement of goods worth over Rs 50,000. Over the next two months, it was also made mandatory for intra-state transfer of cargo. Under the system, a supplier or recipient of goods is required to intimate a centralised system about the details of goods, its origin, destination as well as details of the vehicle
The government had cited the cargo-tracking system as the main reason for higher-than-average GST mop-up in April at over `94,000 crore. However, while revenue collection for May further improved to `95,600 crore, it didn’t quite show the expected jump given that e-way bill for intra-state movement came into force in many states in this month.