IT INFRASTRUCTURE - A PRIORITY FOR GST

The Centre and States recently arrived at a broad consensus on rolling out independent India's biggest tax reforms that will simplify the manner in which corporates, small enterprises and traders will be levied taxes on goods and services. But the main point on which the Government still has to work a lot is the "IT Infrastructure". IT infrastructure is going to play a major role in the smooth implementation of Goods and Service Tax.

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chairman Nandan Nilekani is working on the IT preparedness for GST .IT infrastructure will play a huge role in interstate GST. Inter-state GST (IGST) will be collected by the Centre and passed on to the states. It will have to be transferred electronically. The Centre had already started working with the states to upgrade their IT infrastructure, which had to be developed simultaneously and uniformly in all the states, unlike in the case of IT structure for value-added tax. The Centre had broad IT infrastructure in place, but it was a major issue with states, especially in case of IGST. The Centre’s online tax payment application ACES will be tweaked a bit to take care of the GST but computerisation of states is the biggest concern.

Earlier, Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee proposed to constitute a panel headed by Unique Identification Authority chairman Nandan Nilekani to draw a roadmap for the IT infrastructure needed for the smooth rollout of the proposed goods and services tax (GST) regime. The proposed panel would be authorised to take decisions about the size, features and functionalities of such a system (on GST). The proposed panel will also choose the appropriate technology for GST implementation and select the vendor who will deliver it in a time-bound manner.

In a recent development towards the IT Infrastructure, the government announced that it will float a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for setting up information technology (IT) infrastructure for the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST). The SPV, called GST N (Network), will have the Union government, the states and a technology partner as its stakeholders.

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chairman Nandan Nilekani assured the empowered committee of state finance ministers that IT infrastructure for GST would be ready in the next six months, that is, by February 2011 - two months ahead of the proposed introduction of GST.

The SPV will be formed by August 10 and by December 1 it will start testing of a tax platform interface with taxpayer software. By January 1, 2011, it will start testing the Centre’s system with that of states. By February 1, it will be prepared with facilitation centres for businesses which do not have computers. The SPV will also provide assistance to states which do not have required IT infrastructure for the GST rollout.

Mr. Nandan Nilekani is required to take decisions with great clarity and speed as the IT infrastructure needs to be in place well before the actual introduction of GST in April next year. IT infrastructure would immensely facilitate simplification i.e. physical interface between the taxpayer and the administration is minimised.