If you find that some eateries are charging goods and services tax (GST) rates that were applicable before the recent reduction or that some establishment is not passing on the benefits of lower rates to you, the consumer, then you have the option of filing a formal anti-profiteering complaint. However, the process is not simple or straightforward.
Citing experts, the Economic Times reported on Thursday that the average Joe would find the complaint form's format difficult to navigate.
The Central Board of Excise and Customs has uploaded the format of the anti-profiteering application form on its website so that prospective complainants can make use of it. A look at the format reveals that the application requires extensive mandatory details, such as the GST registration number of the supplier who has allegedly not passed on the benefits, Harmonised System of Nomenclature code, the taxes applicable on the product or service before GST's implementation or under a previous GST rate, and the post-GST reduction in amount of tax per unit, among other things.
Further, the form states that self-attested copies of all documentary evidences like proof of identity, invoice, price list, and detailed working sheet, etc, are to be attached. The complainant also has to declare that the information furnished by him or her is true to the best of his or her knowledge and that he or she has exercised due diligence in submitting such information.
(Click here to download the format of the GST anti-profiteering application form)
How does one file the form and how is the complaint processed?
According to CBEC, an affected consumer can file an application, in the prescribed format, before the Standing Committee on Anti-profiteering if the profiteering has an all-India character or before the State Screening Committees if the profiteering is of local nature.
Both these committees form the first level of examination and are meant to confirm prima facie evidence of profiteering if any. After this first level, complaints, where evidence has been found by the committees, are passed on to the Director General of Safeguards (CBEC) for investigating the alleged profiteering.
In the event that the complaint is originally filed with the state screening committee, which subsequently finds prima facie evidence of profiteering, then, the application is first passed on to the standing committee before being passed on to the director general of safeguards.
The director general will send the investigation report to the National Anti-Profiteering Authority for the final decision. The National Anti-profiteering Authority will determine if profiteering took place and pass the appropriate order to ensure consumers' benefit from reduced prices.
Not an easy task
The above process is labyrinthine. Referring to the details required in the form, Pratik Jain, indirect tax leader, PwC, told ET that a simpler form might be needed for the mechanism to be effective for the common man. "Given the granularity of information needed, it may be very difficult for the end consumers to file it,” Jain said.
MS Mani, senior director (indirect taxes) at Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP, agreed with Jain's submission, telling the financial daily that "the format could work well if it is to be completed by tax officials". He went on to explain that others would "find it difficult to fill up the mandatory fields marked in the form" and that "some details in the form would be available only with the progress of the investigation".
One, perhaps unintended, benefit pointed out by experts approached by the financial daily was that the complexity of the form and the process would discourage frivolous complaints.
As reported earlier, the government has set up the National Anti-Profiteering Authority amid reports that some companies, particularly restaurants, are not passing on the benefit of the GST rate cuts to consumers. B N Sharma, additional secretary in the department of revenue, has been appointed as the chairman of the authority.
The authority will exist for a period of two years from the date Sharma takes charge.