‘GSTN, CBDT to share data’

Data exchange, analytics can help stop tax evasion, says GST Network chairman

The Goods and Services Tax Network and the Central Board of Direct Taxes will soon join hands to share data to stop tax evasion, GST Network Chairman Navin Kumar said in an interview .

Vendors from whom small businessmen buy products or services are too small to be in GST, but for businesses to get input tax credits, the vendors must be registered. So, even those not eligible for GST have to register...

We had done a study of the state VAT and we found that 37% of the taxpayers registered were below the Rs. 5 lakh threshold. They had registered voluntarily precisely for this reason because manufacturers and wholesalers would buy from them only if they were registered so that they could utilise the input tax credits. So the same kind of thing will happen here as well.

Since the GST Network is going to be such a vast repository of corporate tax data, will the CBDT also have access to this data?

It is in fact part of our mandate also. At this point of time, we are busy with registrations, return filing, etc. But after some time, when we have the data, we will also be undertaking data analytics. We can do analytics on our own data, but we can do much more if we get data from other sources like the Income Tax Department. That is on the cards. If we take their data, of course, they will also want our data. We will have to share.

But won’t there be legal issues since the data is confidential?

This is also [of the] government and that is also [of the] government. We are only handling it on behalf of the government. So, if the government decides it should be done, there will be no legal issues.

Before GST even started, in Maharashtra, the State government obtained income tax data and matched it with their VAT data and discovered a tax evasion of the order of Rs. 300 crore in a month. So, this kind of thing is doable and should be done. It will happen.

How many people have registered on the GST Network so far?

Of the 86 lakh existing tax payers who are to be migrated to GST, we have reached 70 lakh. Tomorrow [July 21] is the last day for these people to come on the portal unless the government extends this. By our account, there are about 15 lakh remaining. And still about 10,000-12,000 per day have been coming, so maybe the government will extend the date.

Have you asked the government to extend the date for migrations?

We have told the government that this is the status and it is up to them to take a call on this.

How many provisional IDs have so far been granted?

Provisional IDs were created for all 86 lakh who were earlier registered on other tax networks. Of the 70.5 lakhwho have migrated, 41 lakh of the people who have activated their accounts have completed their applications also.

How many new registrations have taken place since the Network began accepting them?

New registrations have been a real surprise. When we started, we didn’t have any baseline data, so we went to the states and looked at the growth of the VAT registrations, and there we found the growth was on average 5%. So, we calculated that on a base of 80 lakh, an annual rate of 5% would be the growth. But since we started the new registrations on June 25, already the number has crossed 8 lakh.

And, it is not slackening. About 35,000-40,000 new people are registering every day.

What is the peak traffic capacity of the GST Network?

If you look at the number of people we can handle, we had envisaged that at the beginning we could have 1.3 crore people.

As things are going now, we have enough spare capacity for people who want to register afresh. I don’t know how long this stream of new registrants will continue, but another 10 lakh is a distinct possibility, taking the total to about 98 lakh. We’ll get there in the next 2-3 months.

Is the infrastructure robust enough to handle the peak load of tax filers?

We have studied the taxpayer behaviour in terms of return filing for service tax, central excise and VAT and we found that 50% of the taxpayers file their returns on the last day, and during that last day, most of them are between 4 -5 p.m. We have kept that in mind while designing the system. If a company wants to upload invoices as they are generated, that can also be done. We are starting this from next week.

We are also going to provide an offline utility which works with an Excel sheet. You can put your invoice data in the Excel sheet and this utility will import that data and upload it to the portal. You don’t have to come to the portal to punch in the data.

We are also asking the MSMEs to upload their invoices every week at least, and the bigger businesses must upload them every day. Then, even if everybody comes on the last day, it won’t matter, because the bulk of the work is done already.

Registrations have been a surprise, with 35,000-40,000 new registrants every day

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