Nine Indian states and one Union territory are likely to have the e-way bill system under the goods and services tax (GST) in place by the new year in preparation for an all-India rollout by February despite concerns expressed by industry about potential harassment by tax officials.
Industry executives are concerned that the e-way bill system, an electronic way of tracking the movement of goods, may give tax authorities in the states powers to harass businesses in case of small instances of non-compliance even though it was designed to eliminate state-wise documentation and ensure faster transit of goods by doing away with checkposts at state borders.
The central and state tax authorities decided to move ahead with the measure, suspecting massive tax evasion under the new indirect tax regime that was implemented from 1 July.
An e-way bill will have to be generated for all movement of goods—within or outside a state—amounting to more than Rs50,000 by prior online registration of the consignment. The supplier and the transporter can upload the details about the shipment and get a unique e-way bill number.
Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand have all started the e-way bill system. While Karnataka was the first to move to an e-way bill system in September, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand started last week. Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Meghalaya and the Union territory of Puducherry are likely to launch such systems over the next few days.
At present, Karnataka, which led the implementation, sees an average of 100,000 e-way bills generated every day and inspects only around two in 1,000 shipments. Rejections are less than 10% of the total inspections.
Most states will start the e-way bill system at least on a pilot basis from 15 January. An e-way bill will remove the necessity to have a transits pass. At present, one needs multiple transits passes if the goods are moving through many states. But under the e-way bill system, even if the goods are moving from, say, Delhi to Kerala, only one e-way bill will be generated, said Prakash Kumar, chief executive officer of GST Network, which manages the new indirect tax regime’s information technology systems.
Earlier this month, the GST Council, the federal indirect tax body, decided to bring forward the implementation of the e-way bill system to 1 February for all inter-state movement of goods. For all movement of goods within a state, the deadline for e-way bills is 1 June.
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