By Tejas Goenka
The GST Council
in its 22nd meeting held in October last year, had decided that the e-way bill
will shall be rolled out nationwide from the April 1, 2018. This was surely good news for businesses across the nation, as they got more time to get acclimatized to the various changes brought in by the GST era.
However, a couple of months later, at the 24th GST Council meeting held in December 2017, the powers that be, sprung a surprise at the business and transporter community by advancing the e-way bill by a full two months – to February 1, 2018. Nevertheless, trial runs began in full earnest from January 15, with most states queueing up at the e-way bill portal – registering, generating, modifying and cancelling e-way bills, and the situation seemed under control, with over 2 lakh e-way bills being successfully generated on a daily basis. On February 1, just when India SME Inc. pepped up after a promising Budget 2018
, was seemingly set to welcome the e-way bill, the portal crashed, and the e-way bill was yet again deferred, till further notice.
Needless to say, the nation has already fluctuated quite a bit between positive and negative thoughts regarding the e-way bill, ever since it was first conceptualised, and the present situation, would have surely added to the complexity. The number of e-way bills generated in the trial phase is probably testimony to the fact that, at last businesses and transporters were beginning to see the bright side, and were getting equipped to handle it, but with the portal playing truant on the very day the e-way bill was to become compulsory, questions could potentially be raised on how much worth, the trouble actually is.
This is probably the time, when we need to gather our thoughts together, and look at the e-way bill objectively. The current situation notwithstanding, technical glitches should not be the reason, why the long term benefits of the e-way bill start getting ignored, and the potential it has towards making India truly – one nation, one market, one tax
– should not be forgotten.
One of the key achievements of the e-way bill will surely be the effective dissolution of state borders. The amount of time wasted at state borders to validate documents with regards to inter-state movements of goods, coupled with the fact that each state had its own format of declaration forms, permits and waybills, was obviously a hindrance to any business which dared to spread its wings, beyond its home state.
Documentation, necessarily meant human intervention, and human intervention kept the scope open for tax evasion and corruption. With the e-way bill coming in, the supplier, the recipient and the transporter will all be on one platform, and with the joint participation of all three entities, one single document, generated with the government’s approval will accompany all consignments and will be valid across the nation.
While the e-way bill has been conceptualized looking at the larger picture of reduction in tax evasion, seamless inter-State transportation of goods and minimal loss of time at check-points, it has to be ably supported by robust technology. Not just that, the technology will need to be simple – something which can be adopted equally by a fully automated business doing inter-state trade, as well as a not so tech-savvy transporter in charge of carrying thousands of consignments in a month.
Also, in the absence of the invoice-matching mechanism, the expectation is that the e-way bill process in itself will be able to take care of cross-border reconciliations to a large extent, and play a good hand in preserving tax revenues. Overall, it can be safely said – that the sooner, all businesses, both within and across states, are able to accept and implement the e-way bill as a way of life, the faster will we be able to witness a truly unified nation, with an unmitigated and unprecedented velocity of commerce and growth.
The writer is Executive Director, Tally Solutions Pvt Ltd.