As the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council deferred the roll-out of the e-way bill in its last meeting on October 6, at the core of the deferment were concerns related to the functioning of the GST Network portal. It is learnt that the Council was of the view that loading the portal with the additional burden of generation of the e-way bill at this juncture might have been counterproductive, an official said.
“The working of the portal has been under scrutiny and at present it appears that the focus of the portal and GSTN should be to smoothen the glitches in the return filing process along with enabling the availability of various forms that are required for the smooth implementation of GST. Loading the portal with the additional burden of generation of e-way bill at this juncture might be counter-productive,” an official said about the e-way bill-related discussions held in the GST Council meeting.
Also, another aspect that was considered in the meeting was the irregular internet penetration in various parts of the country. “The internet penetration in various parts of the country is not similar and in certain areas the challenge of internet connectivity might be an issue. The introduction of e-way bill system would require availability of electricity and internet at the time of movement of goods as they cannot be moved unless an e-way bill is not generated,” the official said.
The Council also is learnt to have agreed upon the need to have a proper module and adequate pilot testing in place to ensure that the IT backbone for e-way bill is stable. “The development of the module as well as its pilot testing is crucial to ascertain its stability and robustness before it is implemented,” the official said.
The Council also discussed that the testing of software for nationwide e-way bill being developed by NIC is likely to take one more month. It was felt that the taxpayers are already facing challenges in complying with the existent compliance matrix and overloading them with any such measure simultaneously might only increase their dissatisfaction with the system, the official said.
Under the GST regime, the e-way bill has been proposed by the government with an aim to track both intra-state and inter-state movement of goods of value exceeding Rs 50,000 for sale beyond 10 km, with tax officials having the powers to check e-way bill at any point during the transit to check tax evasion. Amid lot of opposition from the industry and as other issues took precedence for the GST Council, there was a delay in clearance of the rules related to the e-way bill ensuring that the system for tracking intra-state and inter-state movement of goods could not come into force along with the roll-out of the new indirect tax regime from July 1 this year.
The e-way bill provisions were approved by the GST Council, chaired by finance minister Arun Jaitley, in its meeting on August 5 and were subsequently notified on August 30. The e-way bill notification did not specify a roll-out date. Government officials, however, at that time said that the e-way bill system was expected to be implemented from October 1 but the timeline did not get enforced. In its 22nd meeting held on October 6, the GST Council decided to defer the implementation of the e-way bill.
On October 6, Jaitley said that the system shall be introduced in a staggered manner with effect from January 1 and shall be rolled out nationwide with effect April 1 next year. The announcement came at a time when GST taxpayers were already grappling with technical issues while filing their GST returns on the portal.
According to the notified e-way bill rules, the permits issued would be valid for one day for movement of goods for 100 km and in same proportion for following days. The supplier or the transporter would not be required to furnish the e-way bill in case the goods are transported for a distance of less than 10 km within the state or Union territory from the place of business of the consignor to the place of business of the transporter for further transportation.
The e-way bill rules specify that every registered supplier will require a prior online registration on GSTN portal for movement of goods valuing more than Rs 50,000. The GST Council has exempted 154 common use items such as meat, fish, curd, vegetables, some cereals, human blood, LPG for households and kerosense for PDS from the e-way bill system. Also, e-way bill system will not be applicable on goods being transported by a non-motorised conveyance and where the goods are being transported from the port, airport, air cargo complex and land customs station to an inland container depot or a container freight station for clearance by Customs.