Changing GST rules, pending refunds continue to hamper SEZ exports

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Incessant changes to the goods and services tax (GST) rules, also affecting refunds, and procedural issues affect export from special economic zones (SEZs). The Export Promotion Council for Export Oriented Units & Special Economic Zones (EPCES) has listed a number of persisting procedural and regulatory obstacles.

“There have been a staggering 367 changes to the GST rules till April 15, since the new tax structure came into being last year,” EPCES Chairman Vinay Sharma said.

A one-size-fits-all policy, he added, was not taking into account many ground realities.

Both Arun Goyal, special secretary, GST Council, and Yogendra Garg, additional director general, Directorate of GST, have been urged by businesses to allow the use of regional languages during the generation of e-way bills.

The issue of pending GST refunds continues to dog exports. While refunds from the central government have started flowing, those from state governments are still piling up, said Sharma. SEZ exporters say over 60 per cent of their refunds are stuck, severely reducing their working capital.

EPCES has pointed out that according to official data, a total of Rs 176.16 billion has been disbursed by the government as refund till March.

However, the 204 such zones saw 18 per cent increase in exports between 2016-17 and 2017-18. Software exports from SEZs alone rose 17 per cent.

Combined exports from SEZs were Rs 5.5 trillion in 2017-18, from nearly Rs 4.7 trillion in 2016-17.

EPCES has suggested these zones be treated as deemed foreign territory for the purpose of the ‘place of supply’ rule under integrated GST regulations for services exports.

Also, that both the National Securities Depository and GST portals be linked, so that duplicate data submission does not occur. There are also suggestions for faster processing of refund claims by suppliers.

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