For last one week, Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) was testing its platform before opening it up to taxpayers today. As per reports, around 80 lakh tax payers have already migrated and this number is expected to go up even further. This would be the testing time not just for GSTN but also GST Suvidha Providers (GSP) and Application Service Providers (ASP).
GSP and ASP: Space for everyone
Appreciating the work done by GSTN, Bodhtree, MD, Rama Krishna said, “A major event has happened. Now what will follow is the aftershock. During the transition, things went smooth. Now, I do not see any major hurdle.” Krishna’s company is among the 34 licensed GSPs recognised by government.
Like other GSPs, Taxmann Technologies also believes that it is ready. Adding to it, Taxmann Technologies’ CEO Piyush Kumar said, “Minor glitches are bound to happen while uploading process. There are so many aspects in technology. The question is not whether there will be glitches but how fast you reconcile it and go ahead.”
At present, there are 34 government licensed GSPs but Cyber CA’s Nilesh Kapadia feels this number is set to double after government opens the next licensing window. From over 200 applications received last year, government selected companies – like TCS, Tally Solutions, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP, Ernst & Young LLP, NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure, Bodhthree Consulting, Excellon Software, Taxmann Publication, and Vertex Customer Management India among others – to be GSPs. Some of these GSPs are also ASPs and some GSPs are dependent on ASPs for assistance. For instance, NSDL is availing services of Thomson Reuters’ (ASP) global Onesource determination solution (which is customised for the Indian market).
Explaining the difference between GSP and ASP, Kapadia added, “ASP may have a lot of direct access to intricate purchase and sales data of businesses. So a taxpayer would need to exercise due diligence before using the services of an ASP.” The focus of ASP will be to convert taxpayers’ raw data on sales and purchases into GST returns. Then this data will be filled in GSTN by the GSP.
Kapadia, who is facilitating GST help cell for SMEs in Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce as well as Chamber of Marathwada Industries, further added, “It will be on the taxpayer to make a choice depending on their business complexity and to what extent they need to hire an external ASP or directly go through a GSP for filing their returns.”
There are many ASPs that are aspiring to become GSPs. ClearTax is one of the ASPs that is planning to participate in the next round to become a GSP, stated ClearTax’s Ankit Chaudhary. He added, “We are offering our software for free to tax experts and businesses till September 2017. We have kept Rs 5,000 as the minimum price but we are still contemplating on what the price of the product should be after the free trial period.”
It is believed that the GST era will usher in a whole network of GSPs and ASPs as service providers that will need assistance of chartered accountants and IT professionals. “There is a tremendous opportunity available for IT companies post GST and other compliance that have gone digital,” said Vinod Tambi, co-founder and president of Excellon Software.
Krishna believes the demand for CAs will increase as GSPs and ASPs are eyeing at adding more and more CAs as their client (or service providers) along with corporates, MSMEs and other assessees. Chaudhary added that ClearTax have around 1 lakh CAs in their database and they plan to add more CAs. “In next one year, we hope to have 10 lakh CAs and tax assessees using our services. Every day we have 22,000 assessees registering with us,” added Chaudhary. Everyone has inspiring targets and ways to grow their business. Krishna believes that everyone can have access to at least 10 lakh assessees and still the players can make descent profit. The space is open for at least 70 serious players, he believes.
CAs: Traditional service providers’ new role
A chartered accountant for more than 25 years, Deepak Joshi who works closely with clients in oil sector, believes that GST will allow CAs to move away from these taxation activities. “Now, CAs should consider helping businesses to grow and become advisors to management. There are a lot of constructive activities for CAs than just being a tax facility provider,” Joshi reiterates.
He added, “I have told my clients that I will hand-hold them from 6 months to 1 year. I am training the administration department of the companies (my clients) to carry out the GST function on their own. Over time, GST processes will become automated.” For CAs, who want to continue doing their traditional role of a tax facilitator, will have upgrade themselves, stated Kapadia. He believes that CAs will have to invest time, money and effort in training themselves as well as their staff to be able to render GST related services. Kapadia believes that this would be their opportunity as professionals to develop their service `infrastructure’ as an ASP.