Claiming that old era tactics are back in full swing, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have urged the government to direct tax authorities to not harass them by slapping demand notices in pre-GST cases. The leading industry body of smaller firms has demanded that an explicit advisory should be issued to field officers about persecuting SMEs with pre-GST cases in this initial phase which has seen frequent change in rules, technical glitches and genuine errors. “There is need to realise difficulties being faced by the government machinery due to rules and digital processes clearly indicating a long time it will take for the GST regime to stabilise,” Federation of Indian Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises (FISME) has said in its representation to the government.
It has asked for immediate relief to assessees where defaults are due to technical glitches in the system. Further, penalties, late fee, interest etc should be applicable only in case of GSTR-1. FISME secretary general Anil Bhardwaj said that there have been lapses in compliance in the initial months of GST implementation for various reasons including glitches in the IT system. “But then prime minister (Narendra Modi) himself had appealed to the small businesses to join the system promising no questions would be asked about the previous accounts. People trusted him and joined the reform. But now field officers are asking questions on why certain details were not declared earlier. This is actually going back on the promise,” he said. “There were certain exemptions in the previous system. For instance, there was exemption in central excise for companies having annual sales of upto Rs 1.5 crore. Due to this, many businesses did not keep records of various transactions. Now the exemption limit has come down to Rs 20 lakh. This means almost all SMEs are now covered,” Bhardwaj noted.
The SME sector was hoping to get some relief from the GST Council earlier this month but no major decisions were taken by the all-powerful panel except proposing incentives to consumers for digital payments. It, however, set up a group of ministers comprising finance ministers of Bihar, Assam, Delhi, Punjab, and Kerala under the chairmanship of minister of state for finance Shiv Pratap Shukla to give suggestions for easing pains of the SME sector. “The fact that government has set up a group of ministers to deal with issues concerning SMEs prove that there are many unresolved problems,” said executive of a Delhi-based small firm.