There is something very secular about taxes like the universal disdain people have for both filing and paying.
Another matter altogether that chartered accountants (CAs) have thrived on this sentiment. With life being finally breathed into the 16-year-old zombie called the Goods and Services Tax (GST), for businesses, CAs are likely to be on speed dial; its imminent rollout has got them scurrying from workshop to workshop to be appraised of the latest changes, migration to the new system, and the new tax slabs. Most agree that GST is going to be a complex affair.
Complex is good for business.
For instance, compliance. “We are going to be hit by a tsunami of returns to file every month,” says Prabhu Govindan, managing partner at KPSN Consulting, an accounting firm in Chennai. “At least 50% more than what we file now for each of our clients.”
If industry experts are to be believed, compliance to GST alone makes it a Rs 25,000-crore business opportunity.
For one, the government is going to hand out ratings to businesses based on how compliant they were. Then there is the little matter of the volume of returns businesses will have to file. So far, companies have had to file tax returns only twice a month at the most, and of course, during the annual tax fest in July. But with GST, all service providers will need to file three returns for every state they are present in, every month. That’s at the very least 37 returns from the current 25.
There’s more. Businesses also need to worry about not erring. Like that strict examiner giving negative marks for a wrong answer, companies will pay for every error by paying more taxes. Also, every transaction reported by a business will be cross-checked with what the company’s vendor is reporting. Just to make sure there is no misrepresentation.
Not far away from this world of complexity, tucked away in Bengaluru is a startup which believes this is their moment in the sun. Enter, ClearTax.
“No one has a good compliance software till now”
It will be fair to say that the Government of India understood the complexity of GST. So, they planned for it, making technology the bedrock for implementation. “It is probably the first law, where even the wording of the rule is intrinsically linked to the use of technology,” says Nitin Mishra, executive vice president (Technology) of GST Network, a non-profit government entity under the Ministry of Finance that provides the IT infrastructure for the ecosystem.