As we contemplate real-time reporting and e-invoicing, let us take a step back and evaluate the challenge faced by tax administrators — the difference between the expected GST revenue and the actual amount collected.
Among the factors that could cause such a gap are possible tax evasion, incorrect reporting, and administrative errors. Several measures like notice on account of variance/difference in data reported in returns and e-waybill related checks during transportation etc., have been adopted to plug holes. As it was unviable to effectively detect and eliminate tax evasion and optimization practices by chasing paper trails, e-invoices were introduced on 01 October 2020. In addition, a central de-duplication facility has been operationalized to ensure that the same transaction is not reported multiple times. A connection with e-way bill system has been established for singular reporting of common data.
Year 2020 witnessed not only high adaptability in businesses at the onset of a pandemic but also in the way the government and enterprises successfully implemented the electronic invoice regime in India. With the advent of e-invoicing, inter-operability between two government portals — Invoice registration portal (IRP), which is designated for validation and signing of e-invoices, and GST return portal, for transaction reporting and return filing — was tested.
The successful combination of e-invoicing with real-time reporting has also rationalized the exchange of invoice data between business partners.
With the phased roll-out of e-invoice (applicable as of 01 April 2022 for businesses with an annual aggregate turnover threshold of US$27,000 or INR 200 million), there has been a significant increase in real-time reporting and tracking of GST collections.
Recently, in June 2022, the government had appointed five other invoice registration portal (IRPs) to provide taxpayers a seamless e-invoice generation experience.
Information exchange among tax jurisdictions
Given the multi-registration environment in which businesses operate today, digital tax administration (DTA) has assumed higher significance. As the quantum of information disclosed as part of GST returns is high, tax administrators are leveraging a centralized system to facilitate information exchange between states for better administration of inter-state trade and uniformity of tax positions.
The revolutionary goods and services tax network (GSTN), GST’s IT infrastructure, provides a common platform for registration, return filing and e-payment, while e-invoices are generated through authorized invoice registration portals (IRPs). GSTN provides a shared IT platform to all GST stakeholders and integrates the tax administration systems of the center and states.
India’s rapid strides in DTA
The government is continuously investing in enhancing systems and processes and is building a framework where data triangulation is enabled. For example, the income tax and GST databases are now integrated, which allows comparison of transactions reported on either platform. Data recorded in Form 26AS is being compared with GSTR1 filings. E-way bill filings are triangulated with FASTag data. Making aadhaar authentication mandatory will help provide a single point of reference across multiple databases of the government. With input tax credit in particular, over a period, data sharing with the buyer is becoming real-time and comprehensive.
Provisions regarding the ability to recover from the buyer in case the vendor has not deposited taxes, or the transaction is not reported by the vendor, have created the need for the entire chain to be compliant on a near real-time basis. This is improving the overall quality of compliance. Expansion of e-invoice requirements is expected to continue. On the analytics side, the government has built traceability of transactions through several supply chains by building network visualization across the country.