A truck is loaded with goods in the Burrabazar area of Kolkata (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

E-Way Bills Portal Can Generate 40 Lakh Invoices A Day, Says GSTN CEO

The portal for generating e-way bills for moving goods within and between states is equipped to take a load of about 40 lakh invoices a day, Goods and Services Tax Network Chief Executive Officer Prakash Kumar told BloombergQuint.

Kumar estimates that 30 lakh such bills will be generated every day once the electronic invoices are rolled out for intra-state transport of goods from June 1. About 6-7 lakh invoices a day are estimated to be generated for the inter-state movement, he said.

The GST Council decided to roll out e-way bills for inter-state trade two months earlier than planned from Feb. 1 to curb evasion. They are needed to move goods worth Rs 50,000 and above for more than 10 kilometres.

About 25 Lakh E-Way Bills Generated In 13 Days

All states and union territories, except the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep, implemented e-way bills on a trial basis, and 24.97 lakh invoices were generated from Jan. 17 to Jan. 29, Kumar said.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

How many states have participated in the e-way bills pilot?

Except the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep, all states have rolled out e-way bills on a trial basis. On Jan. 23, about 2.06 lakh such invoices were generated on the portal. This shows good growth if we compare it with the experience in Karnataka, where the e-way bills were implemented first. From Jan 17–23, about 12.50 lakh e-way bills were issued across all states. About 24.97 lakh e-way bills were generated across all states from Jan. 17–29. Our estimate of average number of e-way invoices to be generated is 6-7 lakh a day based on the experience in Karnataka. Once such bills are generated for intra-state transactions, the estimate of average bills generated is about 30 lakh a day.

The e-way bill portal and GSTN are two different systems, they have separate servers and data centres. But there is an exchange of information between the two. Any registered taxpayer who wants to generate an e-way bill needs to give his GSTIN, and the portal pulls up the data from GSTN. For generating e-way bill through GSTIN, a taxpayer needs to be active, his registration should not be provisional or cancelled. Those who are not registered under the GST need to provide some basic details like name, address, mobile number, email-id and Permanent Account Number.

Is there an integration between the e-way portal and GSTN?

Yes, the two systems are integrated to the extent that they can talk to each other. But the servers are different and traffic is separate—so they don’t affect each other. GSTN will use data of the e-way bill portal for cross-matching. The value declared in an e-way bill be cross-checked with the return. This will be the second level of data reconciliation. The moment an e-way bill is generated, the invoice level data can go to GSTR-1 automatically with a click if the taxpayer provides three additional items—taxable value, tax rate and tax amount. That does not need to be mentioned for e-way bill, but if you mention that, you can automatically populate GSTR-1. This will save the effort of uploading the same information in GSTR-1. If a taxpayer generates an e-way bill for goods worth Rs 1 crore, and files sales of only Rs 80 lakh, the discrepancy will be known to tax officials. Our job is to collect data and highlight the discrepancy.

How well is the system equipped to take the load of about 12 lakh e-way bills a day?

We have designed the system to generate 40 lakh bills a day because we had to keep invoices for intra-state supplies in mind. So, we don’t expect any challenges on that front.

Some states would make e-way bills mandatory for intra-state movement of goods from March and April when they think they and their taxpayers will be ready. There are some challenges in making e-way bills mandatory for transporting goods within the states. The rules say an e-way bill needs to be generated for moving goods over a distance of 10 kilometres. For example, transporting goods in cities like Delhi from one area to another would require such bills. This could lead to inconvenience, so law allows state governments to exempt certain areas in cities.

What are the problems that taxpayers are facing even six months of the GST rollout? What’s GSTN doing to tackle these problems?

When we introduce a new functionality in the GSTN, people face two kinds of issues—one is lack of awareness among taxpayers and the other is a lacuna or bug in the software. We keep removing those bugs, and we have added new features to the software. So, no problem from July 1 persists today. In fact, no fault persists for more than four to five days. On Jan. 20, the last day for filing returns for December, the system went down as we had introduced a new functionality which interacted with returns. Filing of returns stopped, but the option for payments was working. Therefore, the deadline was extended by two days.

The number of complaints we were getting in July has dropped to almost nothing. Earlier, my inbox used to be full with about 200-300 emailed complaints from taxpayers in a day. The help desk got about 7,000-8,000 emails a day. The system has stabilised now. About 5.5 crore returns have been filed on the GSTN so far.

What were the findings of Sushil Modi-led panel to tackle difficulties faced by taxpayers on GSTN?

The Group of Ministers identified 48 items in the beginning. These are functionalities, and we have already covered 93 percent of that and shown it to them. Now, we are concentrating more on e-way bills and on how to further improve the user interface. The group of ministers will meet once in two months to monitor the improvements and new functionalities.The committee tasked with simplifying GST returns will work under the guidance of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi.

What changes would the GSTN require if we move towards a single-return regime from next year?

It’s difficult to say how long it will take since we don’t know what changes need to be made. All of us, GST Suvidha Providers, accounting software companies and GSTN, are on tenterhooks, and eagerly waiting for the changes approved by the council in returns so that we have time to incorporate them.

What was Nandan Nilekani’s idea to simplify returns?

He pointed out a pertinent thing that there is a business relationship between the buyer and the seller—the buyer makes the payment for goods to the seller once he checks everything. Why not put this into place rather than imposing anything new? There is already an existing mechanism for how you will pay, what you will pay, just make use of that. Whatever the supplier has uploaded in his return, the buyer will get input credit for that. Since we will allow daily filing of returns, the buyer will be able to check what supplier has uploaded and ask the supplier to correct the inconsistencies.