Industry laments inadequacy of GST compliance relaxations

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‘Overall expectation was a complete waiver of late fees for pandemic-hit months’

The GST compliance relaxations announced on Friday to help businesses cope with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic need to be enhanced to provide meaningful relief to firms hit by the ongoing severe disruption, industry representatives contend.

Following the GST Council’s meeting, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an amnesty scheme for late fees on small businesses’ pending returns from July 2017 to April 2021, and lower interest rates for tax payment delays for the months of March to May this year, among other measures.

“About 89% of the GST taxpayers constitute small tax payers, so tax payers can now file their pending returns and avail the benefits of the amnesty scheme with reduced late fee,” she had said. “Ate fees have also been rationalized, so that it’s not too high or too low for some,” she added.

Industry body FICCI said the amnesty scheme to reduce the late fee would provide some relief to the small taxpayers, but it would recommend ‘a waiver from the late fees and interest’ too.

“While the announced relaxations are a welcome relief to the pandemic ridden businesses, the overall expectation was a complete waiver from payment of late fees, especially for the months where the pandemic had disrupted business since early 2020,” said Sandeep Jhunjhunwala, Partner, Nangia Andersen LLP.

Deloitte India’s senior director MS Mani said that while the amnesty scheme would significantly benefit small businesses, there was a need to extend the same to other businesses which had not fulfilled their obligations due to the pandemic.

Industries hit hard due to COVID such as hospitality and travel also require some relaxation to be able to sustain themselves, said Shweta Walecha, director at Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan Attorneys. “The council has not discussed such issues.”

Mr. Jhunjhunwala also said that a waiver from interest payments was available only for the first 15 days for the months of March and April 2021 and no such exemption was available for May for businesses with an annual turnover of over ₹ 5 crore.

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