Small business gets GST compliance relief

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The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council on Friday eased compliance burdens for pandemic-hit industry, particularly small businesses, but deferred taking a call on crucial issues such as resolving the inverted duty structure and paying timely compensation to cash-strapped states for their revenue shortfalls.

Taxpayers who could not file their GST returns between July 2017 and January 2020 can now file them after paying a reduced late fee of Rs 500 if they have tax liabilities. Taxpayers who do not have any tax liability and who missed filing returns will not have to pay any late fee, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said after the Council’s 40th meeting that took place through video conference. The window to do this will be open from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020, she said. The council has also provided compliance-related concessions to small businesses that have faced problems due to the pandemic, she said. The Union finance minister is the chairperson of the apex federal body on indirect tax and finance ministers of states are its members. Normally, the council’s decisions are unanimous.

Sitharaman said the council has slashed the interest rate by half for non-compliance by small businesses having a turnover of up to Rs 5 crore. Small taxpayers who missed filing returns for February, March and April due to the pandemic will not be charged any interest till July 6; thereafter, they will pay 9% interest , she added. “In other words, for these months, small taxpayers will not be charged any interest till the notified date… up to July, there is nothing they have to worry about. They don’t have to pay the late fee, but thereafter it will be 9% [interest for late filing] instead of 18%… So reduction in the interest rate [for small taxpayers] is valid up to September 30,” she said. For subsequent tax periods also—May, June and July—small taxpayers can avail a waiver of late fees and interest if returns for the period are furnished by September, the finance minister said. Besides, the Council has agreed to give a one-time extension for restoration of cancelled GST registration. The GST collection in March was Rs 97,597 crore. Revenue collections exceeded Rs 1 lakh crore for four consecutive months starting November 2019. On the GST revenue position, Sitharaman said, “We have given the picture to the council.” She, however, declined to disclose the details.