Citing the vast number of trucks still stranded on highways and anticipating delays in delivery of goods, transporters in the country have appealed to the GST Council and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) to once again extend the expiration date of e-way bills beyond April 30. Transporters, already operating far below capacity, don’t want to be saddled with compliance burdens once the lockdown is over.
The CBIC has taken up the matter internally and is likely to soon come out with an announcement on the extension of the date, according to sources in the know. Earlier, on April 3, the finance ministry had allowed for an extension of the validity of e-way bills which were set to expire between March 20 and April 15, to the April 30. However, since the lockdown in many states is likely to be extended beyond May 3, and movement of consignments is expected to be slow, the All India Transporters’ Welfare Association (AITWA) has submitted to the CBIC to further extend this validity for e-way bills stuck in transit to the June 30.
To safeguard transporters from being penalised and deal with an increased compliance burden which will further slow down the movement of goods once the lockdown is lifted, AITWA has asked for this extension only for the bills generated before March 23.
Outlining the reasons for seeking an extension, AITWA said, “At many places, the cargo was offloaded by the truck drivers at private warehouses as the consignee was closed. This enabled them to go for the loading of essentials and pharma material. We anticipate that customers and transporters will have to pay the warehouses absurd amounts to recover the material and deliver to the consignees.”
The association has said raising new GST e-way bills is an apprehension with buyers and sellers, as there is currently no provision to generate a new e-way bill on the same invoice number. The association flags a further delay in delivering orders because many consignments are stuck in warehouses which are shut due to the lack of permission to open up commercial activities in many areas. Lack of availability of drivers to take the wheel is a concern the association expects and it will only exacerbate.
Transporters also worry that customers may refuse to accept shipments due to a change in market scenario or loss of further orders, in which case materials may have to be returned to the seller. Therefore, concern about the penalties transporters will have to incur on these e-way bills. “We have made various representations to the government, and are expecting a favourable outcome very soon,” Abhishek Gupta, joint secretary, AITWA, told CNBC-TV18.