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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

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Important GST Definitions, Terms and Glossary

The GST is ready for implementation and brings with it a slew of changes that indirect tax payers and business owners need to get familiar with. Not only are businesses required to register themselves under the GSTN, they must also reassess their business in accordance with certain new terminologies to determine how the GST impacts them. A few of the important GST definitions and the registration process are briefly specified here to help you get started.

GST terms to know 

Certain essential definitions have been mentioned under the Model GST Law, which was first released in June, 2016, and then modified and released again in November, 2016.

Business : Definition: Business refers to trade, commerce, manufacture, profession, vocation or any other similar activity, including transactions related or incidental thereto, irrespective of volume or frequency, as well as supply of goods/ services in connection with commencement or closure of business.

The definition is quite wide and seems to be borrowed from State VAT legislations. Some parts have been modified to include transactions in services.

Place of Business : Definition: (a) A place from where the business is ordinarily carried on, and includes a warehouse, a godown or any other place where a taxable person stores his goods. (b) A place where a taxable person maintains his books of account. (c) A place where a taxable person is engaged in business through an agent.

Since GST is a destination-based indirect taxation system, the place of business is a critical factor in determining the business model and taxation dues of a business that is present in many places.

Time of Supply : Definition: The time of supply is the earlier of the following dates: (a) Date of issue of invoice by the supplier or the last day by which the supplier is required to issue invoice or (b) Date of receipt of payment.

The time of supply is important since it determines the point of taxation i.e. the point in time when goods / services have been deemed to be supplied or services have been deemed to be provided and hence SGST or IGST apply.

Goods : Definition: “Goods” refers to every kind of movable property other than money and securities, but includes actionable claim, growing crops, grass and things attached to or forming part of the land which are agreed to be severed before supply or under a contract of supply.

While the term “movable property” has been mentioned, it has not been defined in the Model GST Law, and one needs to refer to the General Clauses Act 1897 for this. It does not include intangible property such as intellectual property rights (copyrights, trademarks). Also, an item needs to be movable for it to be classified as goods.

Services : Definition: “Services” means anything other than goods.

The GST Model Law clarifies that services include intangible property and actionable claims but does not include money. There are separate definitions for supply of software, works contracts and leasing transactions, even though they fall in the ambit of services. The inclusion of “actionable claim” may create confusion where financial and commercial transactions are involved.

Software includes the development, design, programming, customisation, adaptation, upgradation, enhancement, implementation of information technology software, and is treated as a service.

As far as leasing transactions are concerned, a finance lease would be considered as supply of goods, and an operating lease would be considered as a service under the Model GST Law,

Works Contract : Definition: It is an agreement for carrying on building, construction, fabrication, erection, installation, fitting out, improvement, modification, repair, renovation or commissioning of any moveable or immovable property. Work Contract has been defined as a “Service”, simplifying its taxation procedure.

Supply : The GST has three new definitions related to “Supply”, i.e., Principal Supply, Composite Supply and Mixed Supply.

1. Principal Supply
Definition: It is the supply of goods or services which constitutes the predominant element of a composite supply and to which any other supply forming part of that composite supply is ancillary and does not constitute, for the recipient an aim in itself, but a means for better enjoyment of the principal supply.
It is generally the dominant supply in a bundle of supplies or a bundle of services. For example, in a mobile phone and the charger, the mobile phone will be the principal supply.

2. Composite Supply
Definition: a supply made by a taxable person to a recipient comprising two or more supplies of goods or services, or any combination thereof, which are naturally bundled and supplied in conjunction with each other in the ordinary course of business, one of which is a principal supply.

For example, goods packed with insurance and packing material is a composite supply, with the good being the principal supply. Here, there is a main supply and supporting supply, which normally go together in the course of business and enhance the enjoyment of the main supply.

3. Mixed Supply
Definition: Two or more individual supplies of goods or services, or any combination thereof, made in conjunction with each other by a taxable person for a single price where such supply does not constitute a composite supply.

Take the case of a corporate gift pack that consists of a tie, a wallet and a pen. These are bundled in a package supplied for a single price. None of the items is dependent on the other, nor necessary to be purchased together. This is a case of a mixed supply, where the individual items, which can also be sold separately, are sold together.

Aggregate Turnover : Definition: “aggregate turnover” means the aggregate value of all taxable supplies (excluding the value of inward supplies on which tax is payable by a person on reverse charge basis), exempt supplies, exports of goods or services or both and inter-State supplies of persons having the same Permanent Account Number, to be computed on all India basis but excludes central tax, State tax, Union territory tax, integrated tax and cess.

Reverse charge tax is a system where the recipient of the supply (goods and services), i.e. the client, is liable to pay the tax. Inward supplies are input supplies used as an input for manufacturing the goods or providing the service. Tax paid on input expenses can be adjusted against tax paid on output supplies, through input tax credit. This means that it cannot be treated as a part of the aggregate turnover.

Read more about GST at our GST blog for India.

Oct 24, 2018

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First GST Whitepaper Exclusively for SMEs

We have created ‘GST- An Overview, Its Impact & Significance’ as a comprehensive GST handbook comprising of every aspect related to this new reform, with a special focus on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Starting with the salient features, this GST ebook takes readers through the three main components of the tax which eliminate the cascading effects of taxation. Further, the registration process, four-tiered tax structure, the benefits as well as challenges are explained in the GST whitepaper.

How this Whitepaper will help simplify GST for you

  • Revised GST Rates Update
  • Industry-wise Analysis of GST Impact
  • Clear, Brief Descriptions of Key Aspects
  • Easy Roadmap to Implement GST Changes
  • Business Advice by Financial Experts
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Oct 24, 2018