How GST Impacts the Logistics and Supply Chain Industry in India?

With the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 01 July 2017, business units across the country are beginning to feel its impact. Since the GST has subsumed all other taxes, such as service tax, VAT, Octroi, excise duty etc. collected by the central and state governments in India, the reforms are extensive. Their impact too is comprehensive and is expected to continue well into the future.

Like all other industries in India, GST impact on logistics and supply chain will also bring some major changes in the way these domains operate, as well as their bookkeeping activities. Logistics is a small but major part of supply chain management that concerns the administration of goods distribution in an efficient manner. We will therefore initially look at the effect of GST on logistics and then see how it impacts the broader domain of supply chain management.

The logistics industry includes the road transport sector (comprising unorganised and small enterprises, trucking companies and other fleets), the storage and warehousing domain and the third-party logistics. The operational efficiency of this industry had been falling due to the complexity of networks, growing coordination costs across supply chains, inadequate infrastructure and the levying of entry fee in different states. In addition to these, the multitude of business taxes was making logistics management an unwieldy and expensive process.

Most firms had to establish hubs and transit points in several states to avoid the state value added tax (VAT) because the goods directly supplied to dealers were taxed as per the VAT rate, but the transfer from the warehouse was treated as a stock transfer and did not attract VAT. However, this only caused more problems in accounting and lack of clarity for companies, while also resulting in opportunities for tax evasion.

GST for logistics companies 

With GST now having replaced the multiple state taxes, there is no longer the long-prevalent need to install a hub across all states. Companies can remodel their supply chains and consolidate their hub operations to benefit from large-scale operations. It will also help them to use efficient practices like bulk breaking and cross-docking through a centralised location.

Under GST, the tax on warehouse and services involving manual labour has increased to 18% from the previous tax rate of 15%. With this change, a third-party logistics company will have greater incentive to provide services where the degree of value addition is high and where input tax credit can be claimed. This, in turn, will help in the consolidation of storage and warehouse sector.

With the convenience of entry across states by measures like the e-way bill, transportation delays will be reduced, although it will also call for streamlined IT systems and readily usable documentation at the entry points. For the third-party logistics companies, the costs of designing a logistics network will be less, and asset-light firms will be able to adapt quickly and reap more advantages in comparison to asset-heavy firms.

Impact of GST on supply chain

Before we look at the GST impact on supply chain, it must be understood that supply chain management is vital for the running of business organisations producing and distributing merchandise. Each business has standards for inventory turnaround, and these must be diligently adhered to in order to ensure optimum profit for the organisation. A loss of inventory at any point will result in a loss of value.

Post the implementation of GST, the benefits accrued by entities in supply chain management mechanism include:

Customisation of supply chain – Under GST, manufacturers can shift towards tailored supply chain models as per customer requirements. The removal of stock transfer benefits can help in increasing the share of direct dispatches for medium and large-sized dealerships.

Superior inventory management – After the elimination of multiple state-level taxes in lieu of a uniform GST rate, the stock points have been optimised and channel inventories reduced. There will be fewer transit stays after GST, which will help in advancing lead times while also reducing inventory levels at stocking points. With more potential for consolidation, warehouse management can also become more efficient.

Tangential decrease in incoming logistics costs – An impact of GST on supply chain will also be seen in the form of tangential benefits for direct out-of-state procurements and logistics costs. This can help manufacturers to expand their vendor base outside state boundaries and alter the sourcing models profitably.

Cash flow management for export businesses – Due to GST, tax exclusion benefits will continue with minimum effect on the bottom line, and a streamlined tax system will help in promoting more exports.

Modified after-sales distribution models- Implementation of GST can significantly affect the spares market due to an increased need for storage and retail penetration. Forward-looking businesses can develop their distribution footprint to retreat from consignment stocking, and enable customised supply chain models while also offering high-quality service at lower costs.

Overall, the logistics and supply chain management industry has been touted as one of the primary beneficiaries of GST structure. To begin with, there will be more compliance and adjustment costs because the frequency of filing returns has increased for businesses. Further, to claim the input tax credit, compliance will be expected from every single party across the value chain. This may hurt the profitability of the industry in the short run, but in the long run, operational efficiency is bound to enhance.

At Capital Float, we take all steps to ensure that small and medium enterprises do not face any hurdles in procuring loans for their business expansion or to implement the changes that need to be implemented as a result of GST. We are also helping our clients – which include logistics and supply chain firms – to comprehend the clauses of GST and use it to maximum advantage in their operations. Read our dedicated GST blog series to know more about the implications of GST on various sectors.

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Impact on Retailers in India after 2018 Union Budget

The Union Budget for FY18-19 was much anticipated, owing to reasons more than one. The first full-fledged financial plan after the introduction of GST and the last one by the Narendra Modi-led government, the most significant event of the Indian financial year is over. With the national polls looming in, the Union Budget rolled out by finance minister Arun Jaitely was favourable towards agriculture, rural development, social infrastructure and digital transformation. However, international mobile phone companies, bond investors, equity servicing institutions and the defence sector are at the not-so-advantageous end of the spectrum. In general, this year’s Union Budget has been a shift from the typical stance of the government that all segments need equal attention.

An industry segment that sees clear growth opportunities is retail. Amidst public opinion that the budget had not mentioned the retail segment, the various provisions have subtle repercussions that will help widen the scope of consumption. Consequently, this will have a long-term impact on retailers, where they can reap benefits from consumers with a higher expendable income.

Here are the key provisions of the Union Budget for FY 18-19 that have relevant implications for retailers.

  • Reduction in Corporate Tax
    With regards to taxation, the budget has declared a reduction in corporate tax to 25% for companies with an annual turnover of up to Rs 250 crore. This accounts for almost 99% of the companies in India and would have an impact of Rs 7000 crore on government finances. As only 250 companies have a turnover above the threshold value, this is a significant reduction in terms of the business turnover cutoff of Rs 50 crore that had been announced in last year’s budget for the same tax bracket.
    This move has resulted in a decrease in the tax burden for small and medium businesses, who can now use these additional funds to purchase inventory or machinery, expand their premises, hire new employees or for marketing activities. In case it does not cover your entire expenses, retailers can also avail easy business finance from digitally-enabled FinTech lenders who provide customized credit products like Merchant Cash Advance.
  • Increased Investments in Digital India
    Lack of investment in digital infrastructure by the government has always been a pain point that has deterred the productivity and development of startups and small businesses. This is especially true for the e-commerce sector, as rural India is the driving force behind its growth. This year alone, e-tailers recorded a three-fold increase in the number of shoppers in small towns compared to metro cities.
    Under the massive Rs 3,073 crore Digital India Program, over 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots will be set up to provide broadband access to 20 crore rural citizens in over 2,50,000 villages. This opens up an avenue for individuals in rural India to harness the Internet for trade, banking, logistics and even to avail formal finance from digital lenders. E-commerce retailers can use this opportunity to its fullest, as 55% of the 185 million active consumers are predicted to be from rural India by 2020.
  • Changes in Personal Taxation
    A welcome move for the salaried middle class, this budget proposed a standard deduction of Rs 40,000 for transport allowance and medical reimbursement. While this may seem irrelevant to retailers, the impact of this allowance does indeed affect them. As personal income increases, so does the disposable component. Consumer behavioral studies ascertain that the disposable income is equitable to spends on retail. Thus, the re-introduction of medical and travel benefits is a favourable budget impact on retailers.
  • Refinancing for MSMEs
    The micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector plays a major role as India progresses towards becoming one of the biggest economies in the world. Despite contributing a staggering 15% to the country’s GDP with a high market share of 40% towards employment, these businesses have an unmet credit demand of $ 400 billion.
    Acknowledging the fact, the budget declared an allocation of Rs 3794 crore to the MSME sector for credit support, capital and interest subsidy on innovation. With this reform in play, the refinancing policy and eligibility criteria under Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) program will be reviewed to encourage easier financing of MSMEs by NBFCs. This impact of the budget on retailers opens plenty of avenues avail formal source of finance in a timely manner.
    A unique Aadhaar-like identity for each enterprise will also be implemented for streamlining business identity. This measure can further enable Fintech lenders like Capital Float to process eKYC of enterprises swiftly and offer working capital finance in a matter of seconds.

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Implication of GST on e-Commerce Sellers

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is the single biggest reform in India’s indirect tax structure since the liberalisation of the economy in 1991. Through this reform, the government has integrated the previously disparate segments of the Indian economy and has truly begun the process of creating one market for the entire nation. The idea of a single tax on the supply of goods and services, from manufacturing to delivery to the final consumer, has eliminated the need for sellers to register with multiple tax platforms and file multiple tax returns.

GST is going to have a major impact on e-commerce in the country. Apart from consumers, this trade segment has two key players: the e-commerce marketplaces and the sellers. While e-commerce marketplaces such as Flipkart and Amazon are required to make necessary adjustments to their operations, it is the impact on e-commerce sellers, represented by the thousands of retailers that sell through the marketplace that requires intense scrutiny. Through this blog, we assess the impact of GST on e-commerce sellers and the steps such businesses need to take to ensure regular compliance.

GST-induced taxation changes for e-commerce sellers

Presently, GST appears to be an assortment of compliance guidelines. The enhanced regulatory requirements might take a seller’s focus away from operations for some time. However, GST as a single tax for products across India will be beneficial for all e-commerce sellers in the long run because of the aspect of transparency in trade brought forth by this new indirect tax reform. Let’s discuss the impact of GST on an online seller’s operations:

1. Increased reach of e-commerce sellers: GST has opened avenues for small and medium sized e-commerce sellers to compete with larger enterprises at a national level. Previously, these sellers were limited to operating within the confines of one state due to the looming tax rates of trading across multiple states. By unifying the taxation, e-sellers need not be burdened by multiple taxes while selling to consumers across various states.

2. Compulsory registration required: The government has specified a turnover threshold of Rs 20 lakh for registration under GST. This has been relaxed to Rs 10 lakh for north-eastern states. However, for e-commerce sellers, registration is mandatory, irrespective of whether they fall below the turnover slab of Rs 20 lakh or not. Removal of the threshold for registration will help bring more online businesses into the sphere of taxation.

3. Ineligible for Composition Scheme: E-commerce sellers are not eligible for the Composition Scheme either. The Composition Scheme permits businesses with a turnover of under Rs 75 lakh to file quarterly returns instead of monthly and pay tax at a low rate of 2%. Although this might seem to be a disadvantage for e-commerce sellers, the number of documents required to file for the Composition Scheme is relatively higher, reducing the burden of document collation on the seller.

4. Tax collected at source (TCS): E-commerce marketplaces are required to deduct 2% TCS on the net value of sales as the GST liability of the seller and deposit it with the government. Further, the sales reported by both the e-commerce marketplace as well as the seller need to tally at the end of each month. Discrepancies, if any, will be added to the turnover of the seller and they will be liable to pay GST on the additional amount. This measure will weed out fraudulent sellers and shall subsequently build trust between marketplaces and sellers.

5. Filing of tax returns: The e-commerce sellers need to follow the same process that is followed by brick-and-mortar retailers. Form GSTR-1, containing details of outward supplies, needs to be submitted by the 10th of every month. The seller will receive Form GSTR-2A by the 11th of the same month, which contains details of the tax collected by the e-commerce marketplace. They then need to review and submit Form GSTR-2 by the 15th of the month. Discrepancies in supplies are to be submitted through Form GST ITC-1 by the 21st of the same month. This would require businesses to be particular about tallying data coming from different sources before filing returns. Taking the help of a professional GST services provider in meeting compliance has become a requisite in light of these regulations.

6. Increase in Credit: The GST law has established ‘input tax credit’ to cover goods or services used by a company in the course of business. E-commerce sellers need to establish a direct relationship between the input material and the final product/service is eliminated. Much like other registered entities under GST, e-commerce sellers too can now avail input credit.

7. Refunds under cash on delivery: Consumers extensively opt for ‘cash on delivery’ in India and such sales witness return of orders to the tune of 18%. The reconciliation process for refunds takes around 7-10 days. Initially, there might be confusion around generating refunds for cancelled orders where taxes have already been filed.

The impact of GST on logistics and warehousing

With the Government having done away with multiple layers of tax, GST is bound to reduce costs incurred in e-commerce logistics. This reduction, according to some estimates, could be as high as 20%. Also, with state-level taxes being subsumed under GST, e-commerce platforms can reduce warehousing costs as they need not maintain huge warehouses across multiple locations in India. Such warehouses were earlier operating below their rated capacities, adding to inefficiencies and the selling price of products. Now, e-commerce marketplaces can opt for maintaining a few warehouses at strategic locations. These well-maintained logistics hubs will be able to attract FDI inflows and lead to an increase in overall efficiency in operations. With the free movement of goods and services and a uniform tax rate across states, e-commerce sellers will be free to transport across different locations in India.

The implementation of GST stands to benefit e-commerce sellers, as due to the elimination of entry taxes and faster movement of goods vehicles across states, the last mile delivery costs will come down. This benefit can be passed on to customers. Also, e-commerce marketplaces are now free to source goods from SMEs across India and not just limit themselves to local players across states. They were compelled to do this earlier to save costs on heavy inter-state taxation. Such a move will give impetus to the SME sector in India and foster healthy competition among SMEs, thereby improving the quality of products and services available in India.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that e-commerce will be subject to increased tax compliance and subsequently increased costs. However, in the long run, GST should level the playing field for e-commerce sellers, thereby streamlining their operations and setting the tone for increased business growth

Visit our blog to read more engaging content on GST.

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Oct 24, 2018