GST Amnesty scheme now available for non-filers of GSTR-9

The CBIC has notified the much-anticipated GSTR-9 amnesty scheme. The Central Tax notification 07/2023 was released on 31st March 2023 to notify two decisions that benefit GST annual return filers.

High late fee charges discouraged businesses from coming forward and filing the delayed GSTR-9. There have been many instances where the late fee was running into lakhs!

Amnesty scheme for GSTR-9 non-filers upto FY 2021-22

Firstly, those businesses that missed the previous deadlines for filing annual returns in Form GSTR-9 can do so at a concessional late fee under this scheme. The notification allows waiver of late fees computed under the law by an amount exceeding Rs.10,000 per return, per Act. 

So, if a business wants to file GSTR-9 of a past financial year, say 2018-19, it can do so by paying a late fee of only up to Rs.20,000. It need not pay the rest of the late fees over and above Rs.20,000 if the actual computed late fee by the CGST provision of Section 47 exceeds the maximum cap.

The validity to use the benefits under the GST amnesty scheme by non-filers of GSTR-9 remains up to 30th June 2023, starting from 1st April 2023. Any mandated GST-registered person who has yet to file GSTR-9 from FY 2017-18 until FY 2021-22 may do so within the set deadline to avoid higher penalties.

Care must be taken to file the pending GSTR-9 returns during this time since any further delay may have serious consequences. The Budget 2023 had fixed a limitation period of three years for submitting any pending returns but has yet to be notified as of date. Suppose this move comes into force by notification. In that case, taxpayers will be barred from submitting past GSTR-9 and can invite legal troubles from the tax authorities.

It is pertinent to note that GSTR-9 must be filed even if it is a nil return and, once filed, cannot be revised. Hence, taxpayers must ensure accuracy in the details reported in the missed GSTR-9 returns to avoid any potential notices from the department.

Presently, it is mandatory to file GSTR-9 for regular taxpayers, with a few exceptions, whose annual aggregate turnover is more than Rs.2 crore during the relevant financial year up to FY 2021-22. The government may also maintain this limit for the coming financial years. However, it may extend this to the lower-turnover category once they embrace the e-invoicing system in later years. 

Reduced late fee from FY 2022-23 for GSTR-9

Secondly, the notification defines a new late fee for different categories of taxpayers. The late fee changes with the slab of annual aggregate turnover under which the business (PAN level) falls. 

The first slab is up to Rs.5 crores, which fixes a late fee of Rs.50 per day per return (Rs.25 each under CGST and SGST laws). However, the maximum late fee collected should be only up to 0.04% (0.02% under each Act) of the turnover in state/UT.

The second slab ranges between Rs.5 crores to Rs.20 crores of turnover. The late fee for the delay is Rs.100 per day per return (Rs.50 each under CGST and SGST laws). The maximum late fee chargeable cannot exceed 0.04% (0.02% under each Act) of the turnover in state/UT.

The third and final slab is for businesses with a turnover of over Rs.20 crores. 

The late fee remains the same as earlier, i.e., Rs.200 per day per return for the delay (Rs.100 each under Central and state laws). The maximum late fee is restricted to 0.50% of turnover in state/UT (0.25% of turnover in state/UT computed each under CGST and SGST laws).

To conclude, enterprises must take benefit of the amnesty scheme provided for GSTR-9 to give full and accurate disclosure of GST details while avoiding the hassles of litigations and mitigating costs.

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