Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac in conversation with Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance, Government of India. (Image: Thomas Isaac’s Facebook page)

‘It’s A Mess’, Says Thomas Isaac On E-Way Bill Implementation

The government's decision to introduce e-way bills for inter-state transactions from April 1 - its second attempt to do so - has met with skepticism from Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, who says its a “mess” out there.

Speaking to BloombergQuint on Monday, Isaac said he is not sure whether the IT systems are more prepared now than they were at the beginning of February, when the government first attempted to introduce e-way bills. At the time, implementation had to be deferred following multiple reports of IT systems crashing.

"You cannot have this national level tax system without the IT backbone, server capacity and so on. I don't know what's happening. There's no way my state government can examine the returns, see whether leakage is taking place, whether IGST can be recorded and so on. Really, it's a mess here," said Isaac. He added that he is very much in favor of e-way bills being introduced but is unclear of the implementation process.

Following a meeting of the Group of Ministers on Saturday, it was announced that e-way bills for inter-state movement of goods would be introduced from April 1. E-way bills for intra-state movement of goods would be implemented in a phased manner.

Isaac said that he and several other ministers are looking for an assurance that the system will not fail like the last time. The implementing the e-way bill is also necessary as genuine tax payers continue to suffer, he said. "Every genuine payer who is paying tax is suffering. They find it difficult to compete with traders who don't pay tax," Isaac said. Implementation of e-way bills would allow states to track transactions better, bringing more traders into the tax ambit.

Issac also criticized the delay in finalizing changes to the GST return filings. At the Group of Ministers meeting on Saturday, it was expected that a new, simpler-to-comply-with GST returns filing framework would be finalized. But discussions remained inconclusive.

“Eight months into the new system, we are debating what should be the return form. It’s very strange... It shows how unprepared we were.”
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