Ankit Agarwal, Managing Director for Alankit Limited (GST Suvidha Provider) shares his views on how one can choose a better GST partner for the GST implementation
Goods and Services tax or as our PM likes to call it ‘Good and Simple tax’ regime has been the talking point for quite some time now across all business, political and media circles. From a phase of pre-emption to discussions around actual roll-out, to analyses of possible impact across sectors etc., many aspects have been deliberated by the experts from various angles. But, now the needle is shifting towards discovery of possible ways of implementing the regime and considerations around most effective tools for easy compliance with the changed law are on the rise.
There are only few businesses who have in-depth knowledge and wherewithal to evaluate multiple solutions which are being offered in the market to adapt the best suited technology for effective compliance. The subordinate players are facing many issues and challenges in understanding various nuances of GST regime. Also they are clueless on how to choose the right partner who can help them through in the process for seamless transition.
In order to fulfill specific player’s needs and requirements, all GSPs (GST Suvidha Providers) and ASPs (Application Service Providers) are working in order to develop customized solutions which fits to their needs. From offering invoice volume based adaptation models to coming up with duration specific packages, there is no dearth of variety in market today. Yet, due to intensive nature of the solutions, most industry players are not in a position to evaluate which partner or solution they can go for.
A holistic GST solution can be summed from technology back up, to billing model, to storage capacity, to additional in-built capabilities. Different service providers are making various promises, here are a few aspects which corporates, SMEs, tax professionals or individual businesses should keep in mind when choosing a partner for themselves:
- Preserve annual records: Currently, there are different solutions available in the market offering duration based solutions for limited time period, but it is not to be forgotten that all businesses will need to file the annual returns. If a business is operating on a particular solution which is for a quarter or on a half yearly basis and later wishes to switch on to some other solution, it should have the assurance of seamless records transfer. Likewise, there are some players who are charging clients on the basis of duration of association. So, for such associations, the cost of further extension of record keeping should be budgeted in when planning to partner with a solution provider.
- Online and Offline capabilities: The digitized nature of the new GST regime and its ability to adapt to internet enabled technology solution is a pre-requisite. But, on the part of the solution providers, it won’t be wise enough to overlook limited or no internet connectivity in majority of small towns and villages in India which are a hub of SMEs and MSMEs and therefore it’s important to consider the offline capabilities. It is very much important for your partner to have an offline capability to store invoice records which should be updated on regular intervals. This would make sure that tax professionals can any time update the data according to their convenience. Further, GST regime acts like a chain linked through the entire business transaction cycle, sometimes it would be important to go back to previous entries for any requirements, manage records and entries and keeping the data offline would ensure that working in this domain is possible without pushing the data out.
- Plug and play model: The solution which a business opts for should offer flexible operations which would enable easy plug and play and will help in reducing the adaptation time. Also, it should offer the flexible usage in terms of data entry like – possibility of importing data in multiple formats (from manual entry to excel based imports etc.). With this, it should also offer the choice between entering data on the cloud, keeping it there to make further additions or edits or probably saving it directly on GSTN.
- 24X7 support and real time infrastructure upgrade: It might happen that while operating a new system, the tax practitioners may have certain queries or might require hand holding. Therefore, an infrastructure to handle such queries in form of a multi-linguistic call center or real-time support by trainer professionals in form of free demonstrations, regular counselling and personal visits, or in-built assisted return filling model etc. would be much required. These solutions would essentially be needed for tier II and III towns which are a hub for SMEs and MSMEs.
- Probability of pre and post filing reconciliation: As a fact, the new GST regime has made the entire taxation structure effective and transparent but there are some professionals who are still limited to the traditional format of functioning. Usually the data which is once filed with GSTN cannot be further edited and for many industry players who work with multiple vendors, there is big chance of mismatch in the supply transactions which would only be reconciled after returns are filled. But, there are some players who are offering an extensive and enhanced feature in their tax filing solutions and pre-filing reconciliation in order to ensure faster follow ups and closures for reduced mismatches.
Till now there are multiple models of operating with the GSTN and GSPs are mainly offering 3 to 4 kinds of solutions which include GSTIN based fee, API based billing model, per CA / tax practitioner and MB consumption based fee structure. Most of the businesses are efficient enough to predict their invoicing nature but it is profound to select a solution provider who offers flexibility of switching between models so that when required a business may function on one model and choose to move to the with no additional charge or formality.
Apart from the above mentioned points, there are various other aspects also which should be analyzed and evaluated before selecting a GST implementation partner. Being lured by the free trials, cheap solutions or sticking to renowned players just for their brand equity, may not be the best way to forge partnerships in this domain. It is very important to identify the correct partner for your business, in order to do that there are some prerequisites which are to be kept in mind like technology capabilities with experience and expertise in on-ground implementation, complimented with direct presence across key cities throughout the nation.