04.07.2023: E-commerce operators face issue in GST drive to check fake registration

The pan-India drive against fake GST registration has created problems for e-commerce companies which maintain virtual offices in various states with minimal staff and no books of accounts.

Talking to PTI, MakeMyTrip Group Vice President -Taxation Tajinder Singh said that the GST officials should enquire with the head offices with regard to virtual offices before categorising the state registration as a fake entity for non-production of books of accounts.

“We maintain virtual offices in states …in this fake registration drive the field offices have mistook these offices as fake registration, however we were only using these offices for tax payment, there was no ITC flow or fraud being committed using those registration. Because of this, lot of registration were blocked for compliance purpose and that created problems for us,” Singh said.

Centre and state GST authorities have on May 16 launched a two-month drive to check fake registration under Goods and Services Tax (GST). The fake registrations are mainly taken to defraud the exchequer by wrongfully claiming Input Tax Credit (ITC).

In this drive, 45,000 fake registrations have been identified and evasion worth Rs 13,000 crore detected. Also, wrongful availment of ITC worth Rs 1,430 crore has been blocked.

Singh said that the field offices should take into account the fact that virtual offices are maintained with a few staff and often they do not attend office everyday. The virtual office with a place of address is created only to comply with state GST laws and are not meant to claim wrongful ITC.

“When field officers come to this virtual offices, they will not find physical presence of employees and in that sense they would say nothing is there. After going back they will send us emails and we provide them the information. All the information is available, all the records are available. It may not be readily available when they approach the office,” Singh added.

The e-commerce companies have been representing to the GST authorities that they should be allowed to keep the headoffice address for registration in states to help them do away with the requirement of having a physical presence or maintaining a physical office.

On the issue faced by e-commerce companies, Central Board of Indirect Taxes (CBIC) Member GST Shashank Priya said one thing we have been advising is that wherever you have indicated as a virtual office, the line of distinction between a fake registrant and an e-commerce operator is very thin.

He said there should be some distinguishing feature by which virtual offices in states can say that this is genuine.

“You should be able to fetch your books of accounts. Sometimes when the officers go, the administration people say that the records are not with us, they are with the head office. So that creates a suspicion.

“Since there is a requirement to have records kept at the place of registration, there should be an electronic means of fetching the records and showing it to them to satisfy that you are legitimate registrant,” Priya said.

Source: The Economic Times 

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