Indian Tax Solution

More relief for SMEs as GST Council set to cut late filing penalties

More respite could be on the way small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with the goods and services tax (GST) council set to ease a string of procedures, including partial relief on penalties on late filing of GST returns.

The tax department's proposal, if approved by the GST Council in its next meeting on November 10 on Guwahati, will lessen the struggles of small businesses still grappling to understand the nuances of the new indirect tax system that was rolled out from July 1.

"The idea is that an entity should not end up paying penalty higher than his tax liability," a senior government official told Moneycontrol, adding that the government, however, doesn't intend to waive off the entire late fee.

For instance, there have been cases, where businesses have not been able to file returns due to slowdown in the information technology (IT) backbone of the tax system GST Network (GSTN). A late fee was charged, which turned out to be higher than the company's tax liability.

Similarly, a taxpayer might not have filed return as his tax liability is nil. However, such assessees are also subjected to penalty of late fee, the official explained.

The government does not want to penalise or pull up taxpayers who have missed filing returns, mainly due to technical snags on GSTN, such as slowdown of the system. In fact, small taxpayers are still not used to filing returns online and may have missed deadlines owing to lack of clarity pertaining to processes and the system.

The move is aimed at soothing frayed nerves of millions of small enterprises and exporters that have been battling with procedural irritants, delayed refunds and technical glitches on returns filing.

The easing on late fee penalties will follow the big changes that the finance minister Arun Jaitley-headed council approved on October 6 to iron out rough edges of the new tax system has been hit by multiple pain points since its rollout.

Currently, a late fee of Rs 100 each, under Central GST (CGST) and State GST (SGST) or Rs 200 per day is levied on an assessee. In addition to the late fee, an 18 percent interest per annum also needs to be paid.

"We are looking at giving relief to taxpayers so that they do not have to pay the entire Rs 200 per day late fee," the official said.

Last month, the government had waived off the late fee of Rs 200 per day for taxpayers who failed to adhere to the deadline of the first set of GST returns for the month of July.

"Late fee for all taxpayers who could not file GSTR3B for month of July has been waived, but not the interest on late payment of dues. Interest will be applicable to all taxpayers who have not discharged their complete GST liability for July by August 25," finance ministry said in the microblogging portal Twitter in September.

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