Amid confusion and initial reluctance, traders in the Northeast seem to have finally accepted the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime and officials are hopeful that teething troubles will be resolved soon.
The Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER), the Northeast Chapter of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Indian Chamber of Commerce, North East Initiative, and the Tripura Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) have all welcomed the GST and urged the government to familiarise traders with the new system.
"As the government has introduced the new tax regime, we have to go by it. Earlier, we have done tax management mostly manually, but now we have to migrate to a computerised and online system despite individual handicaps and logistic deficiencies," said Bijan Banik, a medium-scale trader in Agartala.
The Chairman of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, North East Initiative, Mahesh Saharia, said: "Industry-starved northeastern states are mostly consumer states and not producing states. The GST will be beneficial for the region."
"After the introduction of GST, the traders of the region will get the input credit, which was not there earlier. The GST and other taxing officials must cooperate with the traders of the region to cope with the new tax regime," Saharia told IANS.
FINER President Pabitra Buragohain, while welcoming the GST, demanded 100 per cent excise duty refund under the GST.
"Some crucial issues regarding industries, besides special reference to Assam and Northeast, must be resolved. Training to small traders is required for filling GST returns and completing other formalities," he said.
All businesses with annual turnover of more than Rs 10 lakh in the northeast region will be required to enrol under the GST, while it is Rs 20 lakh in other states of the country.
Eight GST commissionerates have been opened in the region, of which two are in Assam -- Guwahati and Dibrugarh -- and one each in Shillong (Meghalaya), Imphal (Manipur), Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Aizawl (Mizoram), Agartala (Tripura) and Kohima (Nagaland).
Three offices of Central Excise and Service Tax in Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Shillong would cover the northeastern states before the GST rollout.
"Even if the annual turnover of a trader is less than Rs 10 lakh but he is doing inter-state and inter-country trade, he will have to enrol under the GST," Sanjoy Majumder, Assistant Commissioner - Central Excise and Service Tax, Tripura commissionerate, told IANS.
He said a large number of traders in Tripura, who had their own facilities or outsourcing system for paying taxes and administering the previous system, could migrate to the new GST system without much difficulty.
"Every day, a large number of traders are coming to our office to learn about the new system. I believe the initial hiccups would be sorted out within a few months," he added.
TCCI President M.L. Debnath said that unfortunately, a large number of Tripura businessmen did not have necessary infrastructure like computer, internet facility, operator of their own, to submit GST return online.
"There should be a system to submit the GST return manually to the local GST authority. This will not only help the business community of Tripura but ensure effective GST operation," Debnath said.
He said that the GST would help in a big way in checking generation of black money and spread of the parallel economy in the country.
GST Assistant Commissioner in Silchar (Southern Assam) Jitesh Jain said that in the beginning, the new tax system could not work smoothly and challenges like registration could be there, but in due course of time, the GST would function seamlessly.
An interactive session was also organised to solve the problems on the spot, he said.
Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that under the new regime, tax collection in Assam would double in the next five years.
"People will not have to pay more. Tax leakages will be stopped. Industrialisation will get a push as manufacturers will not confine themselves to particular states due to the uniformity in tax and will try to set up units across the country to cut down transportation costs," he said in Guwahati.
"Tax collection in Assam, which is around Rs 6,000 crore per year, will double to Rs 12,000 crore in five years," Sarma said.
Tripura Finance and Information Minister Bhanulal Saha also said that the GST had the potential to increase the revenue of Tripura.
"There may be some initial hesitations and problems, but after some time, everything will become normal," Saha told IANS.
Mizoram Finance and Taxation Minister Lalsawta also expressed the hope that the GST regime would substantially increase tax revenue for the state government, since it would broaden the tax base.
Assistant Commissioner of Taxes and Nodal Officer of GST C. Vanlalchhuana said: "We are hopeful to get more taxes under GST than we received before."
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