The final deadline for filing GST annual returns for the FY 2017-18 was finally pushed to the 5th and 7th of February 2020. It was staggered by dividing the states/union territories into two categories. A similar decision has been taken for GSTR-3B, starting from January 2020 return period onwards. While the staggered due date will ease the peak traffic on the government portal around deadlines, several taxpayers are unhappy with the short deadline extension for the annual returns.
The states or union territories which had to comply by the 5th February 2020 include Chandigarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttarakhand. The filing date for the rest of the states and Union territories is 7th February 2020.
While 5th February 2020 has passed, many taxpayers from these states including the GST auditors/consultants assisting them were unable to complete the filing. Also, many tax professionals believe that the previous extension from 31st January 2020 to 5th February 2020 is not justifiable for the disorderly functioning of the government portal that continues till date.
They continue to face technical hurdles while submitting the return forms. The glitches range from errors on uploading JSON of the return form to unavailability of the option to upload GSTR-9 when GSTR-9C is already filed. Some others faced difficulties in receiving the one-time passwords within the timelimit for verification while filing the returns.
Whereas, quite a lot of taxpayers complained of being asked to pay late fees despite them trying to file within the deadline. Even though the GSTN has been taking up these complaints and addressing them on a timely basis, the volume of grievances being dealt with is vast. It poses practical difficulty to provide technical support within a short deadline for a big user base.
Amidst these, the taxpayers of Uttar Pradesh were taken aback when the date of filing was initially preponed from 7th February 2020 to 5th February 2020, that never occurred in the past. Later, CBIC has promptly clarified for the inadvertent error and restored the due date.
Due to the troubles faced by several classes of business, trade, advocate and CA associations came forward to file writ petitions in the high courts of their respective states/Union Territories. They requested a further extension by a week to a month citing the reason as frequent technical glitches on the GST portal and supported by screenshots of multiple failed submissions.
On 5th February 2020, the Rajasthan High Court has passed an order in favour of the Tax Bar Association of Rajasthan. The court has directed the central government to extend the due date of GSTR-9 and GSTR-9C without late fees till 12th February 2020. However, the jurisdiction of the applicability of this order is not defined. The courtroom discussion involved the state of Rajasthan with the tax authorities pointing fingers at the laxity of taxpayers to file the much before the last day.
However, the screenshots produced in the court showing the taxpayers’ failure on multiple filing attempts across January 2020 till recent, satisfied the panel to pass the judgment in favour of the taxpayers. The traders have intentions of filing returns and paying taxes but are unable to pay taxes on time because of such technical issues.
Nonetheless, the panel asked the state tax authorities to accept the return through an email on the same day, which was declined by the government.
In contrast to Rajasthan, the Gauhati High Court has disposed of the writ petition binding the central government to decide on extending the due date in a week. The extension must be made by thirty days, in respect of the states of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
There is no sizable loss of revenue by extending the due date of GSTR-9 and GSTR-9C. Moreover, the annual returns, especially the GSTR-9C, hold great value to the tax authorities when the GST returns were not integrated during the first two years of GST. GSTR-9C helps point out any discrepancies and inconsistencies in tax liabilities and tax credit claims by an independent auditor. Thus, sufficient time, uptime availability and smooth functioning of the government portal becomes essential.
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Annapoorna, popularly known as Anna, is an aspiring Chartered Accountant with a flair for GST. She spends most of her day Singing hymns to the tune of jee-es-tee! Well, not most of her day, just now and then.