A Consideration of GST Training for Business is Best Practice!

India’s biggest tax reform, the Goods and Services Tax commences since July 2017, is estimated to create a wide range of opportunities for government and its people in the long run. This is a thirteen years in the making tax rollout that applies to both goods and services with a definitely greater compliance focus on transparency of trade data for matching between traders, thereby increasing the number of tax payers in the country, and in turn, a larger revenue for the government.

The main focus of GST in India is on the transparency of tax payer's declaration of sales & purchases, which can only be effectively done using GST preparation software with inbuilt artificial intelligence both from the government and the tax payers to facilitate the data matching process. The tax system with intended data matching functionality however will not efficiently work with existing desktop software where majority of businesses previously use to manage their sales and purchases even with the GST compliant upgrades due to the direct and vigorous online data matching required in the reporting process. Business will either need to use cloud based GST preparation software which has inbuilt connectivity with GSP services for continuous mismatch data download to perform online data correction and reconcile the ledger or risk the opportunity to identify for all data mismatch, attend to reconcile the errors and the books, consequently facing heavy penalties imposed as a negligence to comply with GST legislation.

India to date has over 70% of businesses utilising desktop accounting software to manage their business transactions and records and most if not all of these businesses have over the last few months upgraded their desktop accounting software to GST compliant versions in preparation for GST reporting deadline with their accountant’s support. Unfortunately, these businesses will soon find out the inefficiencies of the desktop accounting software when handling data mismatch and electronic filing process.

The possible consequences for these businesses if maintaining their existing desktop GST compliant accounting software is for them to accept any data mismatch found from GSTN portal errors download thus maximising the likely GST payable instead of correcting them. The issue with this action is the business GST ledger will not reconcile with the details filed with GSTN portal and again data mismatch if an audit is later found.

One may think then to register for GSP services direct to save on cost but again the facilities will be no difference to that of GSTN portal file upload without the artificial intelligence inbuilt to enable for online errors correction, ledger reconciliation and electronic records of your reports to be filed to GSTN which may be called upon if an audit is required. The functional services of the GSP is a replica to that of the GSTN portal for tax payers. Its sole purpose is to enable for direct online linkage with other accounting software providers and lessen the connectivity pressure to that of GSTN portal if all software and tax payers were to interact for reporting and support. These accounting software if online would facilitate data manipulation and push back for electronic filing and record keeping.

GST registered businesses must file at least 3 GST reports per month and an annual return to GSTN. The process of data collection and data management for use in the preparation of GST reports must be systematic perhaps even at point of sales for both buyers and sellers to minimise the time consume and any possible mismatch. For bigger businesses, data collection and compliance reporting process is generally managed systematically and by their own in house accounting team but the luxury of such system is not likely to be available for most if not all smaller business whose compliance reporting is prepared by the engaged GST practitioner or their local public accountant as an extended service to their business who may have more up to date knowledge on GST and its reporting requirements.

To ensure higher level of transparency is achieved, auditors, accountants and GST Practitioners are encouraged to provide basic GST training for their clients to manage data collection on sales and purchases which will in turn assist them when preparing the GST reports for electronic filing to GSTN.

With adequate training on GST, both practitioners and business can detect errors within the software which has inbuilt errors data download capability and correction adjustments, thereby preventing possible future incoherencies and saving man-hours.

Inadequate knowledge of how to prepare a GST ledger for online reporting purposes, will result in an improper treatment of books of accounts which is tantamount to irreversible consequences. Recent incident where a small retailer neglected to report Rs. 15 in the GST report filed to GSTN was heavily fined at Rs. 20,000. As part of the GST legislation, every registered taxable business is required to keep record of their book that coherently shows the statement of cash and tax credit either by cash, cheque or by bank transfers for at least 60 months. Failure to keep and maintain accounting records of their business transactions that were recorded in the filed GST reports, will lead to undesirable consequences.

Accounting transactions under GST without a GST ledger is like ending the financial year without auditing your business to ensure accuracy and absence of loopholes. Businesses are encouraged to take up GST preparation software to maintain their books and get adequate basic GST training to minimise the chance of getting undesirable attention from the tax man.