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Old May Not Always Be Gold

Like most college friends, Ankit, Murthy and Kumanan lost touch with each other soon after graduating. Unlike most friends who lose touch with each other, they ran into each other while vacationing in the same resort at the same time to celebrate new years’ eve. While their career paths had diverged 15 years out of college, they were soon reminiscing the good old days with an equally old bottle of scotch. After rewinding and replaying the past a few times, the conversation caught up with time and they started talking about work.

After several years of working in a traditional bank, Ankit got bored and joined a new age digital lending company as the head of credit. Kumanan worked at large garment manufacturing units in India, Bangladesh and China. Watching the industry disappear around him, he sensed opportunity and had recently started his own T-shirt design and manufacturing company where he was riding the e-commerce boom and sold most of his inventory online. He had ambitions of starting his own brand soon. Murthy had joined his father’s business and expanded a single department store into a chain across the entire city. He also supplied snacks, beverages, toiletries, cleaning equipment to the largest software company of his city and they were constantly demanding that he supply paper, ink and most other consumables as they grew and expanded.

With the scotch taking care of any and all inhibitions, Murthy and Kumanan’s frustrations surfaced and they started talking about how they love their work, the sense of independence, the sense of control over their destiny but how they absolutely hated dealing with lenders and banks. In their mind, Ankit personified this opaque, insensitive, slow lender and they wanted him to explain why all their past loan and credit card applications had been declined. The barrage of questions targeted at Ankit reached a point where Kumanan even wanted Ankit to explain why his voter ID had the wrong address! Ankit smiled and surprised them by saying he shared their frustration of being unable to provide the right loan to the right person at the right time in his old bank and that he also moved to a new age digital company with the intent to redefine lending in India.

Ankit then asked Kumanan and Murthy to explain how they went about getting a loan and got the answer he expected. Like most business owners, they did not have the time to deal with multiple banks and they used an agent to help them get loans. While they did not particularly like their agents, they did send a guy over to their office to fill forms, collect documents, organize bank discussions and get them their funding without them having to figure out every bank, product and process. In addition, Murthy and Kumanan both had multiple suppliers who they had worked out individual credit terms with. They also admitted that whenever they needed urgent money or large sums that banks would not provide, they got it from local moneylenders at exorbitant terms. It was quite beyond them as to why a bank would think they cannot repay a larger loan when they were clearly taking multiple loans and successfully paying them off.

Ankit explained that traditional banks and lenders had very limited scope for loan officers to think out of the box and act beyond established policies.  Banks did not have significantly different products or processes and ended up providing 2-3 year lump sum loans that were not large enough for Kumanan or Murthy.  They always ended up spending time allocating money across various activities such as expansion, payroll, supplier payments, seasonal demands, online vs offline sales where payment cycles were vastly different. The advantage of Ankit’s new age company was three fold: custom products designed to address specific financial needs of businesses, high speed customer experience with minimal documentation, and low pricing due to product features that enable non-conservative underwriting. Kumanan and Murthy’s curiosity was piqued and they wanted to know more.

Ankit asked Kumanan to imagine a world in which he downloaded a mobile app, added all his suppliers and had a line of credit with standard terms available that he could use to pay any supplier any time. He could pick his repayment period and the payment goes through immediately! No need to haggle with each supplier and the credit line grew with usage and regularity of payments. Since he sold online, he also had the option of picking a tailor made e-commerce loan where repayments were mapped to the payment cycle and a transparent cash flow control mechanism ensured that many more people qualified for affordable large loans. These loans even adjusted themselves for seasonality of his business and he could request top-ups as and when he needed them. Kumanan was very impressed that these products were not restricted to his imagination but were actual products that Ankit was able to provide via his new age digital lending company.

Murthy wanted to know if there was something for folks like him who did not sell online. Ankit told him that instead of taking long term loans that may not be utilized all the time but keep accruing interest, Murthy should opt for an invoice financing loan wherein all his supplies to the large software company could be funded as and when they make a purchase from him. That way, he does not have to plan for their expansion and is confident of the right amount of money at the right time and the right rate. Murthy agreed that while this product did sound interesting, he preferred if somebody came to his office to explain the product and handle the paperwork. Ankit mentioned that his company did not have any “paperwork” since most customer information was collected digitally but he is happy to send over a person to Murthy’s office to help guide him through the product and process. Murthy then wanted to know why he could not get a larger loan and Ankit explained that lenders and banks are happy to lend when they have some visibility into the cash flow of a business. As an example, Ankit’s company had recently launched a merchant cash advance product that collected daily payments directly from the credit card machines that Murthy had in all his stores. Typically, it was a lot easier to qualify for such a loan, there was minimal documentation and there was no need to think about payment due dates!

Having given up hope of ever hitting the gym, Kumanan and Murthy were happy with their new year resolution of trying out custom financial products from new age digital companies and keeping in mind that old may not always be gold!

Tushar Garimalla

Tushar has deep expertise in credit, risk management, portfolio management and analytics gained during his 10-year career with HSBC and Capital One in India and the US. Most recently, he worked on a small business credit card portfolio purchase for Capital One including business development valuations, due diligence, system integration and credit policy development. Tushar graduated from IIT Madras with a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering.

Tushar heads Decision Sciences at Capital Float. 

Oct 24, 2018

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Implications of GST for Trading

India is amongst the fastest growing economies of the world, with retail trade contributing an estimated $600 billion+ to the economy. The impact which GST, the unified indirect tax structure introduced by the Government of India on July 1 2017, brings on such a major economic lever will be highly significant.

Further, the implications of this new taxation procedure on the trader will vary on the nature of the trade, i.e., wholesale or retail. In this blog, we explain the opportunities within the new tax reform that traders can leverage, and discuss how they can prepare themselves from a GST perspective. Read on to know the effects of this latest indirect tax reform for:

  1. Wholesalers
  2. Retailers
  3. Importers and Exporters

1. For Wholesalers:

The wholesale market is fundamental to extending the reach of goods and services to the interiors of the country, especially the rural markets. Most wholesalers operate in cash transactions because of which there is a good chance that some transactions are not accounted for, which was previously a concern but ceases to be one under GST.

Given below are the main advantages that GST brings to wholesalers.

  • Transparent tax management: The introduction of technology into the taxation system can be a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to bring about transparency in tax management. Rather than relying on cash transactions, wholesalers will now get an opportunity to go digital. They will also be able to avail the facility of input tax credit. Input tax credit is where the businessman will be able to claim tax on all input goods and/or services. For example, if a wholesaler is renting a tempo for transport of goods, going ahead they will be able to claim the tax paid on the rental and receive it as input credit. They will thus be able to reduce the final market price of the transported goods by making up for that amount.
  • Financial streamlining: Because the entire supply value chain including tax flows will be on GST records, wholesalers will be better connected to retailers and suppliers. For example, the payment for a consignment will reflect in the accounting records of the supplier company as well as the wholesaler, leaving no ambiguity about payables and receivables. This will make it easier to process payments and get tax returns in a timely manner, thereby improving the cash flows of traders. A reliable positive cash flow will help build confidence in the new regime, by making working capital available and aiding opportunities to grow the business.
  • Reorganization of supply chain: GST will enable high visibility and streamlining of the supply chain, providing wholesalers with a transparent view of supply movements. For example, taxation at the “place of supply” is already mobilizing FMCG companies establish fewer warehouses, the sizes of which will be larger than before. This will aid business efficiency in the long run. However, in the initial transition phase, many wholesalers may undergo de-stocking since they would have already paid VAT on their current stocks, and would like to avail of the input tax credit on the basis of the GST rules.
  • Ease of borrowing through digital lending: Because financial and tax transactions will now be recorded in the GST system, even small traders will have digital records of their company finances and credit status. These digital records will act as a ready reckoner of information when a trader opts for a loan. Financial institutions and online lenders like Capital Float can now easily assess the loan eligibility of small traders such as Kirana owners by accessing this data, and provide them quick and easy loans. Borrowing funds online and doing business will now be easier.

2. For Retailers:

Almost 92% of the retail sector in India is unorganised, operating in cash payments. They are, essentially, the tangible representation of FMCG multinationals to end-consumers; yet they are challenged by chronic issues such as the lack of technology enablement and low operating margins. A majority of the retail market consists of “kirana stores”, which are often the smallest link of the trade chain.

Here are the benefits of the new taxation system for retailers.

  • Input tax credit facility: As mentioned for wholesalers, retailers too would be able to claim taxes paid for input products and services availed. This will present a cost advantage to retailers. For example, under the previous tax regime, if a retailer purchases a refrigerator to store perishable goods, they were not able to claim credit for tax paid on it. Under GST, they will be able to claim the tax paid on the new refrigerator when they file their taxes. This will be possible due to tax connections reflecting in the GST value chain at each stage of the transaction. Availing input tax credit means financial gain.
  • Ease of entry into the market: The market is expected to become more business-friendly due to the clarity of processes related to procurement of raw materials and better supply logistics. This is a good opportunity for new suppliers, distributors and vendors to enter the market. The registration process has also become very clear under the GST, aiding entry into the market.
  • Retailer empowerment through information availability: Small retailers often do not have complete visibility into their stock receipts, payments, etc. and are forced to blindly rely on the word of the supplier. GST will streamline these supply and cost challenges and empower the retailer with readily available information through digital systems. For example, when different types of bills like invoices, credit and debit notes, etc. are stored digitally as proposed by GST using accounting software, these will provide retailers with real-time reports on sales, stock information and live balance sheets, in addition to performing error checks before placing an entry into ledgers.
  • Better borrowing opportunity: The retailer scope for business growth can be increased by increasing the retailers’ access to finance. This is where Fintech lenders like Capital Float step in – they can ease their passage to the new tax regime. Capital Float recognises the financial challenges these small business players face and strives to bridge this gap by financing them with small ticket loans. As “kiranas” move onto GSTN, Capital Float will be able to better serve this micro-entrepreneur segment, helping them overcome upcoming challenges by leveraging the GST-enabled digital footprint.

However, like any new reform, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed. We see that both retailers and wholesalers must manage the following eventualities of GST implementation.

!  Higher costs of input services: Input services such as manpower, legal, professional services, auditor services, travel expenses, etc. will now be taxed at 18% as against the earlier bracket of 15%, leading to higher costs to the wholesaler.

! Additional costs to upgrade technology: Many wholesalers, especially rural ones, are not technology-savvy and will need to rely on help from their supplier companies to undergo a technological transformation. This means that supplier companies may need to increase commissions for wholesalers— an added cost to the company, or wholesalers and retailers themselves will need to invest in new systems, incurring additional expenses.

3. For Importers and Exporters

According to the financial reports of 2016, India is the 16th largest export economy in the world with the net value of exports contributing to one-third of the GDP. The subsuming of various local state level taxes will have a direct impact on imports and exports, a critical component of trade. For example, the Countervailing Duty (CVD- an additional import duty levied to offset the effect of concessions or subsidies, currently 0% or 6% or 12%) and Special Additional Duty (SAD- a special kind of customs duty paid on imported goods currently at 4%) have been done away with under the new GST regime. However, Basic Customs Duty continues to be applicable and importers will need to pay it as per previous rates.

Here is a look at the overall impact of GST on trade:

  • Imports Taxation: Every import will be treated as an interstate supply, and will be subject to Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) along with Basic Customs Duty (ranging between 5% and 40% depending on the good imported). This implies that IGST will be levied on any imported item, based on the value of the imported goods and any customs duty chargeable on the goods (say 10%). IGST is a combination of SGST (say 9%) and CGST (say 9%). For instance, for an import item worth Rs 10,000:
Total Duties + Taxes Payable Basic Customs Duty (10%) GST (18%) GST Cess(if applicable)
₹2800 ₹1000 ₹1800 Nil

Thus, imports taxation is an added tax liability for retailers who import goods or services.

  • Exports Taxation: Exports will be treated as zero-rated supply, i.e., no GST will be charged on exports. This is in line with the “Make in India” campaign that aims to make India a global manufacturing hub, for which exports are important.
  • Import of Services: The new clause of import of services places the onus of tax payments on the service receiver when the services are provided by a person residing outside India. This mechanism is called reverse charge and will apply in certain scenarios. For example, if the assessee has no physical presence in the taxable area, then the representative of the assesse will be required to pay tax. In the absence of representation, the assesse has to appoint a representative who will be liable to pay GST. Another example is when a registered dealer is buying goods or services from an unregistered dealer. In this case, the registered dealer will have to pay the tax on supply.
  • Need for restructuring working capital: A major shift is that GST is based on “transaction value” rather than MRP. In the old system, CVD was charged as a percentage of the MRP. Under GST, IGST will be charged as a percentage of the transaction value. This will affect the cash reserves of retailers and wholesalers, and they will need to reassess their working capital needs.

On the whole, GST is expected to bring domestic players at par with large multinational corporations due to the renewed import and export norms and the rules for FMCG suppliers. This is a good sign for Indian trade and exports in general, and thus the implementation of GST shows promise to propel India onto the international trade arena.Visit our GST blog to know more about GST and keep track of latest.

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Oct 24, 2018

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Implications of GST for Services

The new Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a unified tax structure that was implemented by the Government of India on 1 July 2017. The new regime has ushered a significant change in taxation levels and rules associated with it. On an average, we see the tax slab increasing from 15% to 18% for most of the services. While this may translate to higher cost of services to the end consumer, GST also presents a whole lot of opportunities, pushing ease of business.

Services Sector in India: An Overview

India is a strong services-led economy with the sector generating a significant chunk of employment opportunities and contributing to the GDP. It contributed around 66.1% of India’s Gross Value Added (GVA) growth in 2015-16, is the biggest magnet for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and an important net foreign exchange earner. Some of the core areas of service are IT and ITES, banking and financial services, outsourcing, research and development, transportation, telecommunications, real estate and professional services.

Some of the positive impacts of GST on service providers are:

Clear distinction between goods and services: The old regime does not clearly distinguish between goods and services, leading to many instances of double taxation. For example, software is often treated as a good and as a service. The new regime clearly distinguishes goods from services, and also defines principal supply, composite supply, and mixed supply separately. For example, when an individual books a Rajdhani train ticket which includes meals, it involves a composite supply wherein the ticket and the meals cannot be sold separately. Since the transportation of the passenger is the principal supply, the rate of tax will only be charged on the ticket. Alternatively, for items that can be sold separately, but are sold together, like a hamper of snacks and aerated drinks, the rate of tax applicable on the higher product will be levied on the composite supply. There are also separate definitions for supply of software, works contracts, and leasing transactions to bring in more clarity and transparency on their taxation rules.

Streamlining of taxation for intra-state service providers: Due to the state level taxes being subsumed, it will become easier for service providers that operate within the state to know their tax obligations better. Such companies can move away from multiple tax calculations. For example, a CD with software incurs Excise, Service Tax, and VAT under the old regime; this is simplified to one unified rate under GST, making tax calculations and administration easier for intra-state service providers.

Input credit facility: VAT payment under the old regime was not eligible for setting off against output liabilities. The input credit facility is now made available to service providers as well, wherein tax paid on any inputs can be claimed and adjusted against tax paid on output. This will result in direct cost savings for service providers and may even offset the expected rise in end pricing. For example, an AC fitter who paid tax on the raw material for AC fittings (pipe, tape, solder etc.) will be able to claim that tax, and end up spending less on the cost of fitting the AC. This cost advantage can spill over to the customer as well.

Regularised return filing: The old service tax system required two half-yearly returns for services businesses. Under GST, this has been replaced by a number of returns provisions, depending on the type of taxpayer and the type of business:

Return Type of tax payer Timeline of filing return
GSTR 1 For outward supplies of sale (for registered taxable person) By 10th of the next month
GSTR 2 For inward supplies received by a taxpayer (for registered taxable person) By 15th of the next month
GSTR 3 Monthly return for registered taxable person (except for Compounding Taxpayer) By 20th of the next month
GSTR 4 Quarterly return for Compounding Taxpayer/Composition Supplier By 18th of the next month
GSTR 5 Periodic return by Non-Resident Foreign Taxpayer By 20th of the next month
GSTR 6 Return for Input Service Distributor (ISD) By 13th of the month succeeding the quarter
GSTR 7 Return for Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) By 10th of the next month
GSTR 8 Annual Return for e-commerce operator By 10th of the next month

While a shorter timeline for filing returns might seem overwhelming, regularisation in return filing will result in better streamlining of taxes. Since all these returns are required to be submitted online through a common portal provided by GSTN, the process is simplified and will help the government weed out regular defaulters. This in turn will result in a major boost in the contribution of the Service sector to the GDP.

Service providers, however, are concerned about the following aspects:

  • State-wise registration will be required: In the old regime, a service provider could operate with a single place of registration, since services were taxed only by the Central government. For example, if an IT services provider was present across states, they could carry out tax and delivery transactions from the main location. However, now a service provider that is offering services across states must register each place of business separately in each state. This is because the new GST regime entails taxation of services at “location of service recipient”, which will differ for different states. This means service providers will need to register afresh in new states and then carry out tax transactions separately in each state. For example, an IT company like TCS that has a widespread presence across states will need to decentralise service delivery.
  • Decentralised reporting will add to costs: Under GST, the “location of service recipient” is the key criterion for how a service will be taxed. Tax considerations will be related to the place the service is being delivered, and even a pan-India service provider with several “locations of service” will need to maintain state-wise records of input credit, audits, service consumption, etc. For example, earlier a service provider like TCS would enter into a single contract with the client, based on its main location, and then would discharge service tax based on the single-service tax registration model. GST will decentralise service delivery models, ensuring various TCS units adopt their own tax reporting and tax management. While this need for decentralised tax tracking and processing is an immediate cost to service providers, it presents a very real opportunity to streamline reporting and compliance measures for the future.

GST offers clear benefits to the services sector, and while some of these measures entail additional cost and effort in the short term, businesses can look forward to simpler operations with the new taxation laws.

All in all, services industries must gear up for better ways to manage business. Now is the time for them to equip themselves with the right people, processes and technologies, and emerge as service providers of the future.

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Oct 24, 2018