GST has finally arrived; may be not with full strength so far! There are a lot of apprehensions, lot of expectations from GST by all. Our Government is quite upbeat about GST; whereas bureaucracy seems to be divided on the success. There has to be initial hurdles as such a massive changeover cannot be totally pre designed. It is process of evolution. Lot of things will keep on changing under reality check. Just like demonetization, The Government executives have to be on their toes, to attend to all ripples.
Coming to the road transport industry, it seems to be cake walk for them. They have got what they wanted most. It is almost a status quo situation similar to Service tax regime. Low tax rate after adjusting all ITC effects, Reverse Charge Mechanism, hence no ITC, no registration needed, no compliances needed, What else one wants! Of course, a small percentage of transporters was ready to opt for FCM; but in my view that would have been a myopic view, as there is no ITC available on 81% of inputs with a huge undo-able compliances by 90% of the industry.
Now the impact on Road Transport! First the positive ones-
1. In Service Tax there were 6 categories of businesses who had to clear service tax under RCM. The seventh category of proprietors and individuals had to pay service tax to transport to transporters who in turn had to deposit the same with Government. In GST even the 7th category is under RCM.
2. In GST there are only two divisions
a. the registered ones who will pay GST @ 5% on freight and
b. the unregistered ones that includes
i. businessmen whose turnover is below 20 lakhs
ii. Products which are exempted from GST on their sales. In such items a transporter has to register and clear the payment of GST in RMC.
However, still there is a catch I A person whose turnover is less than 20 lakhs is exempted from GST only till his business is intrastate. The moment he decides to sell his product interstate, he needs to register with GST.
3. In GST there are two divisions of transport companies also- provider of service – B2B and 82C. A GTA proving services B2B (business to business) enjoys the exemption being in RCM; however a transporter providing services 82C (Business to Consumer) will have to work in FCM with same rate of 5% and no ITC: because the consumer is the termination point of a tax trail. A consumer is not expected to register for availing different kind of services.
4. The transporters got rid of the menace of Octroy and Entry tax barriers. These were the time killers for transporters. The corruption had made the agents at such barriers the king; who in connivance with octroy officer could make money from hapless transporters sitting faraway. What could not be removed in a continuous agitation and protest in city of Mumbai; that was removed by the strike of midnight between June 30 and July 1, 2017.
5. Lorry owners in the transport business is the most important yet most weak link of the freight cycle. He is extremely vulnerable to complex procedures and officer-dom. Lorry owner is the happiest person today that GST has not touched him in the slightest manner.
6. The transit time will reduce, as lots of time taking barriers will be done away with.
The only unhappy person in the system is the truck supplier/broker.
The lorry supplier/broker is not exempted in the tariff list of GST so by default he gets covered under the last item of services as ‘services not covered anywhere else’. If so, he needs to register and collect 18% on the commission amount charged by him from the lorry owner. Not in a very comfortable position!
These are the visible impacts of GST on the transport trade. Let us see what is going to happen and what is not being discussed too. The main tool in the finance minister’s armory is going to be ‘E-way Bill’. This Eway bill is a tripartite document. The document gets born on a GSTN portal, a huge server to take care of total business transaction of India, when a consignor and a consignee agree for a trade. The consignor fills up the E- way bill format with details of his product like item, its code, rate, quantity and the payable GST by the consignor. Consignor also mentions the name of the transport company who will be handed over the consignment. Consignee okays the terms of such a bill. The next party which enters this bill is the transport company . The transport company will have to fill up required fields like Consignment Note No. ,Vehicle No., date of loading etc. Once the transporter completes this form, the trade journey starts with receipt of material by transport. The vehicle will not be stopped at check posts, but may be intercepted by flying squads for random checking. Checking will be for documentation of Eway bill. In very rare situations material may be checked. However details about this whole process is awaited.
Now what does this process do for a transporter? This is a great system for an honest transport company; however, this will plug all loopholes for a transporter who practices malpractices. From things which will stop-
1. Issue of fake consignment notes to oblige customers.
2. Adjustments in the freight amount and corresponding lorry hire in the year end balance sheet as these data gets connected to each movement on Government server.
3. Movement of goods without documents.
4. Movement of goods with false documents. These are good moves by Government to stop overall corruption in India. However, such measures should be coupled with certain incentives like phase wise reduction of Income Tax. Income Tax only drives people to corruption. The number of tax payees in
India and out of that tax payees above ten Lakh rupees income, often mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi tells a complete story. Removal of Income Tax will take away all reasons of corruption in trade and commerce.