As filing GST interim tax returns deadline fast approaches, another stumbling block set to hit taxpayers

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With less than a week left for filing interim tax returns under the goods and services tax (GST), taxpayers may be staring at another stumbling block. Sources told FE that the GST Network has delayed the delivery of application programming interfaces (APIs) for the summarised interim return (GSTR 3B) to GST suvidha providers (GSPs). This would mean the assessees will have to file returns directly on the GSTN portal instead of being able to use the IT solution provided by GSPs. However, a senior GST Network (GSTN) official said API for GSTR 3B was never intended to be delivered to the GSPs in the first place and was only accommodated as a deliverable as an afterthought. “Initially, this API was developed only for central board of excise and customs (CBEC) and state government, but we decided to give it to GSPs too,” the official said. The official added that the this delay will not hamper the process of filing return as taxpayers were already doing so at its portal.

The GSTN, which has created the IT backbone for the new indirect tax regime, provides selected IT companies (GSPs) with APIs — set of instructions specifying how software components interact. GSPs, which have authorised access to GSTN servers, use these to build customised solutions for different needs of the assessees, including filing tax returns.

GSPs say delayed delivery of API would put the GSTN system under immense strain as all filings will have to be performed at its portal. “GSTN portal can handle 55,000 taxpayers filing simultaneous returns but even this could be tested in the last two days of the filing period,” an executive of GSP told FE on the condition of anonymity.

While downplaying the API delay impact, the GSTN official said many GSPs were not ready themselves as nearly half of the 34 such firms had not connected to the its portal. “The upload of invoices and filing of returns through GSPs has been quite slow, which indicates the lack of preparedness on part of GSPs,” another source said. The source added that one of the GSPs is yet to acquire a leaseline – dedicated internet connectivity for data transfer.

Additionally, only a fraction of registered taxpayers amounting to 16,000 had filed returns till a week ago, which portends a rush closer to August 20, the deadline for filing.

However, the official at GSTN said the system was capable of handling even half the total load of filers on the last two days as this was the case even in the VAT regime.

Till August 5, nearly 87 lakh taxpayers had registered on the GSTN portal as taxpayers under GST. Of this, nearly 71 lakh businesses have migrated from earlier VAT or central excise or service tax regime, while 16 lakh new taxpayers too have registered with the portal. What could further compound the problem is the incomplete registrations submitted by the registrants. The GSTN had earlier said over 30% of the firms registered on the portal had not completed the second form. This would prevent these businesses from filing returns.

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