Implementation of GST by generalists and private players: Discontent brewing among IRS officers
The idea of forming a private limited company with private players to implement the GST goes against the whole concept of sovereign responsibility of administering tax administration. It is to be underscored that India is a Union of States and the Union should not become weak by giving the States excessive leverage when it comes to implementing GST. It was weak institutional framework and tax administration that was responsible for the fiscal developments that eventually flared up the Greek crisis..
There is stiff opposition and no dearth of anger among a section of officers belonging to the Indian Revenue Service as the Government of India has put a system in place whereby the GST secretariat will be headed by generalists and not by those who have the experience of collecting Central Excise and Service Tax, which accounts for 56% of GDP.
There is also stiff opposition to the whole idea of setting up a private limited company (GSTN), which is headed by a retired IAS officer, to implement GST.
While stating that they already have a successful track-record of assessment, collection, duty drawback and refunds, backed by one of the most efficient manpower and the best system in the world, the IRS officers are pointing out that the Central Excise and Service Tax website handles the important job of Registration, Return filing and Duty Payment. They are particularly drawing attention towards their professional competency and asserting that the GST Secretariat should not be allowed to be run by generalists.
On the Customs side, it is being pointed out by the IRS officers that besides their duty to assess, their Single Window, ICEGATE (Indian Customs EDI Gateway) or the e-Commerce Portal of Central Board of Excise & Customs, and the Risk Management System (RMS), which is an IT driven system with the primary objective to strike an optimal balance between facilitation and enforcement, can be compared with the best systems anywhere in the world.
An IRS officer stated that the Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and their Audit are professionally managed and touch global standards. He further said that they ensure minimum interface, absolute transparency, and follow strict deadlines when it comes to taking decisions. Taking a jibe at the Government of India for entrusting the administration of GST Council and GST Network to IAS officers, he said this is highly demoralising for the Indian Revenue Service officers.
An IRS officer wrote on a social networking platform that “with weak and demoralised work-force, the Centre neither can be strong nor can it fulfill its responsibilities in a judicious manner vis-a-vis the Directive Principles of State Policy An economically weak Centre is a death knell for Democracy and Cooperative Federalism, he said adding the need of the hour is a professionally driven Tax Administration System.”
Another IRS officer reacted in sharp terms he said: “The idea of forming a private limited company with private players to implement the GST goes against the whole concept of sovereign responsibility of administering tax administration. It is to be underscored that India is a Union of States and the Union should not become weak by giving the States unnecessary leverage in administering the GST. It was weak institutional framework and tax administration that was responsible for the fiscal developments that eventually flared up the Greek crisis.”
The Union Cabinet in its meeting held on 12 September, 2016 approved setting-up of GST Council and its Secretariat. Simultaneously, it was announced that the first Meeting of the GST Council will be held on 22 and 23 September 2016 in the national Capital.
The Cabinet took decisions for the following:
- Creation of the GST Council as per Article 279A of the amended Constitution;
- Creation of the GST Council Secretariat, with its office at New Delhi;
- Appointment of the Secretary (Revenue) as the Ex-officio Secretary to the GST Council;
- Inclusion of the Chairperson, Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), as a permanent invitee (non-voting) to all proceedings of the GST Council;
- Create one post of Additional Secretary to the GST Council in the GST Council Secretariat (at the level of Additional Secretary to the Government of India), and four posts of Commissioner in the GST Council Secretariat (at the level of Joint Secretary to the Government of India).
The Cabinet also decided to provide for funds for meeting the recurring and non recurring expenses of the GST Council Secretariat, the entire cost for which shall be borne by the Central Government. The GST Council Secretariat shall be manned by officers taken on deputation from both the Central and State Governments.
The Constitution (122 Amendment) Bill, 2016, for introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the country was accorded assent by the President on 8 September, 2016, and the same has been notified as the Constitution (101) Act, 2016.
As per Article 279A (1) of the amended Constitution, the GST Council was to be constituted by the President within 60 days of the commencement of Article 279A. The notification for bringing into force Article 279A with effect from 12 September, 2016 was issued on 10 September, 2016.
As per Article 279A of the amended Constitution, the GST Council will be a joint forum of the Centre and the States. This Council shall consist of the following members:
- Union Finance Minister – Chairperson
- The Union Minister of State, in-charge of Revenue of finance -Member
- The Minister In-charge of finance or taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State Government – Members
As per Article 279A (4), the Council will make recommendations to the Union and the States on important issues related to GST, like the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST, model GST Laws, principles that govern Place of Supply, threshold limits, GST rates including the floor rates with bands, special rates for raising additional resources during natural calamities/disasters, and special provisions for certain States.
Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN)†
It is a not-for-profit, non-Government Company set up by the Centre and States for implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by providing shared IT infrastructure and services to Central and State Governments, tax payers and other stakeholders.
GSTN is a National Information Utility (NIU) set up to provide an IT Backbone for the “smooth functioning of the Goods & Services Tax regimen”. It is being projected as an entity to “leverage the entire nation as One Market with minimal Indirect Tax compliance cost”.
GSTN was incorporated on March 28, 2013. The Government of India holds 24.5% equity in GSTN and all States of the Indian Union, including NCT of Delhi and Puducherry, and the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers (EC), together hold another 24.5%. Balance 51% equity is with non-Government financial institutions.
GSTN is a private limited company registered under the Companies Act, 1956. The Authorised Share Capital of the company is INR 10,00,00,000 (Rupees 100 million) with 49% equity of the company held by the Government (24.5% Central Government and 24.5% all State Governments/UTs put together) and 51% equity is held by private financial institutions namely ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, HDFC Ltd, LIC Housing Finance and National Stock Exchange Strategic Investment Corporation Ltd.
Today GSTN has a team of 46 full time employees including 37 from the Private Sector and 9 deputationists from the Government. The Organisation Structure of the Company broadly consists of 3 verticals, viz. Technology, Services and Support, each headed by an Executive Vice President (EVP) reporting to the CEO. The Technology team is to be entirely sourced from the Private Sector, Services Team from deputationists consisting of Tax Officials from the Central and State Governments and the Support team is a mix from both Private Sector as well deputationists.
Indian IT services Company Infosys, through a competitive bidding process, in which other big IT companies like TCS, Wipro, Tech Mahindra and Microsoft also participated, bagged the contract of Rs 1,380 crore to be the Managed Service Provider (MSP) for GSTN.
The MSP shall build the technology infrastructure for Goods and Services Tax known as the GST System Project (GSTSP), a common Portal for the use of different Tax Payers, Tax Administrators and other stakeholders which includes common Registration, Return and Payment services. The MSP will build the system and once it is ready they will operate it for five years. The Contract with Infosys was signed on 6 November 2015.
Navin Kumar, a retired 1975 batch IAS officer, is the Chairman of the Goods and Services Tax Network.
- Provide common and shared IT infrastructure and services to the Central and State Governments, Tax Payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the Goods & Services Tax (GST).
- Provide common Registration, Return and Payment services to the Tax payers.
- Partner with other agencies for creating an efficient and user-friendly GST Eco-system.
- Encourage and collaborate with GST Suvidha Providers (GSPs) to roll out GST Applications for providing simplified services to the stakeholders.
- Carry out research, study best practises and provide Training and Consultancy to the Tax authorities and other stakeholders.
Provide efficient Backend Services to the Tax Departments of the Central and State Governments on request.
- Develop Tax Payer Profiling Utility (TPU) for Central and State Tax Administration.
- Assist Tax authorities in improving Tax compliance and transparency of Tax Administration system.
- Deliver any other services of relevance to the Central and State Governments and other stakeholders on request.
† authorised websites