Are Businesses Ready For GST Rollout?

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Even though the bickering over the ambitious Goods and Services Tax (GST) seems endless, the government is all set to roll it out by July 2017. This move will set into motion tax reforms that will bring about a definitive change in the Indian taxation system. It is a great learning experience for many of us who have followed the course of this development closely. Most of the people are at sea about GST and its implementation, just as I was initially. Here, I’ve have made an attempt to explain how technology will impact the implementation of GST.

Currently, GST Network (GSTN) is working on creating and unveiling a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure. Core services of registration, return filing and payments are going to be fully automated under this structure. The main question - Is our IT infrastructure ready for such a massive rollout?

GST encapsulates almost every aspect of business and transactions. Hence it is bound to cover all strata of society. In a country where vast sections of population are yet to connect to the digital revolution as a lifestyle and struggle with connectivity, these technological changes might pose a huge challenge. Unless every aspect of the business process becomes computerized, recording the transactions manually and then incorporating the same will call for resource challenges. The dependency on the intermediaries will increase. As expected, a human intermediary will increase the chance of vested interests.

The technological aspect of this implementation is highly quizzical. GSTN is a pretty sophisticated technology. However, in the process of implementation, the two most common challenges presented would be APIs (Application Program Interface) and Cloud.

The taxpayer’s convenience is going to be the key in the success of GST regime. There will be massive data exchange and consumption across technologies and platforms. It will be disastrous for a single website to handle this amount of web traffic without problems. GSTN is focusing on creating an ecosystem of service providers called GST Suvidha Providers (GSPs), who will provide applications for website, mobile app and for tax filing. 

APIs empower GSPs to build digital services that can, in turn, include and harness apps or portals. It is estimated that APIs will create a standardized interface, which will make simultaneous servicing of more than 3 billion invoices possible. This is crucial, as almost billions of invoices need to be uploaded; and most importantly, accounted for every month.

The world is coming closer because of the Internet. The massive amount of information carried by the Internet is processed owing to the development of cloud infrastructure. It is possible to access and use high-end technology infrastructure even for the smallest user. With an exposure like this, data security becomes a huge concern. The cloud providers are able to create security barriers around their services but given their magnitude, it may be difficult to do so for every single user. This is going to present a big challenge.

Several big players are claiming that their software would be able to handle the GST. But only time will tell how many of them are able to actually tackle it. To accommodate the complex requirements of data exchange through multiple entities, the conventional technology systems as well as the database systems will have to be disrupted completely. It is like a social network of transactions where one transaction will either have a direct or an indirect impact on various other transactions and consequently the tax-paying entities.

In such a scenario, CXOS not only have to redesign the accounts and finance sections, they also have to re-engineer the whole business transaction process around the GST methodologies. Even a 1 per cent leakage in the calculations can cause serious damage to bottom-line.

To my mind, most of the answers to these challenges lie in deploying the right web technology. Proactive planning and detailed preparations will go a long way to mitigate this challenge. The government expects the GST will liberate India from red tape procedure and improve the ease of doing business. But the response of the industry to the new change will be apparent only after the actual implementation of the law and operations.

[Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Trivone Media Network's or that of CXOToday's.]