Offline utility vs ASP for GST return filing
One of the biggest concerns surrounding India’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) is compliance with filing returns. Because non-compliance attracts huge penalties and can adversely affect a business’s compliance rating, it is important to decide which method for filing returns will work best for your business. (For more details on compliance ratings, please refer to my previous article, ”3 reasons why GST compliance ratings matter.”)
The basic mechanisms of GST return filing include:
- Mandatory electronic filing
- Uploading of invoice-level information
- Auto-population of Input Tax Credit (ITC) information from supplier returns to those of recipients
- Invoice-level information matching
- Auto-reversal of ITC in case of mismatch
Under GST, a regular taxpayer furnishes three monthly returns and one annual return. The beauty of the system is that a taxpayer only has to manually enter details of one monthly return – the GSTR 1. The other two returns – GSTR 2 and GSTR 3 -- will be auto-populated with information from the GSTR 1 filed by the business and its vendors.
An important part of complying with the new law is filing data with the GST Network (GSTN). The GSTN is an organization that holds all GST data and acts as the clearing house for the central and state governments. The GSTN receives returns filed by companies via a GST Suvidha Provider (GSP).
All returns under GST are to be filed online using either of the following methods:
1. Offline utilities provided by GSTN
2. GSPs or ASPs - If you are already using the services of ERP providers such as Tally, SAP, Oracle etc., there is a high likelihood that these ERP providers have built-in solutions in the existing ERP systems.
Offline utilities provided by GSTN
The offline utility provided by GSTN is an easy to use Excel-based format. This Excel template can be downloaded from the GST common portal (www.gst.gov.in) and used by taxpayers to collate all invoice-related data on a regular basis.
In the Excel sheet, businesses give details of transactions such as the supply invoices issued to registered taxpayers, then they export the invoice details and consolidated details of supplies to consumers, and credit and debit note details to both registered and unregistered taxpayers.
The data in the Excel template is imported by an offline tool, which generates a JSON (Java Script Object Notification) file that is then uploaded onto a GST portal. The major drawback is that the offline utility can upload only 5,000 invoices at a time, or file size of 5mb, whereas practically there is no such limitation in software provided by GSPs and ASPs. Another drawback is that it only imports data from an Excel or CSV file, whereas GSPs and ASPs have their own data import tool that imports data from ERP providers such as Tally, SAP, Oracle, Marg, Busy and more.
The GSTR 1 Excel template can be used to prepare a return without connecting to the internet, in an offline mode. The main intention of introducing an offline utility was to assist taxpayers in remote areas where internet connectivity might not be very good.
Application Service Providers (ASPs)
Are the ASPs be in a better position to help business comply with GST requirements?
There are many benefits to choosing an ASP. They’re able to provide necessary technical guidance to allow businesses to meet stringent monthly GST return filing deadlines. The high level of synchronization required between the taxpayer’s system and the GSTN system is very difficult to achieve without automation.
ASPs also possess the required domain and sector knowledge and can assist in providing end-to-end GST compliance, including invoicing, reconciliation, and return filing.
More benefits of meeting GST compliance through ASPs include:
- Consumption across technologies and platforms (mobile, tablets, desktops, etc.) based on the individual requirements
- Automated upload and download of data
- Secured access to GST APIs and robust security, integrity, and taxpayer privacy
- Ability to adapt to changing taxation and other business rules and end-user usage models
- Integration with customer software (ERP, accounting systems) that taxpayers and others are already using for their day-to-day activities
- Assistance with input tax credit matching
Application Service Providers often provide software that is easy to use and will help save businesses time and effort. They have a multiple-data input approach, namely, direct input of data from Excel or other file types. Many ASPs are also providing other value-added services like data analytics, trend analysis, etc, as well as provision of long-term data archiving and retrieval (often as long as eight years beyond the date that the return was filed).
Offline utilities do not have the ability to store client master, so that a new client profile needs to be created each time. ASPs, however, do provide client master, which is a major benefit for tax consultants.
From the taxpayer point of view, ASPs save time and money, and they promote a “digital” India by reducing paperwork. Through GSPs and ASPs, taxpayers can file their returns easily without any knowledge of taxation. They can simply fill in all required details and GST returns will be calculated automatically, then submitted to a GST portal.
Avalara Technologies is an ASP partnering with multiple GSPs in India to provide cloud-based, GST compliance solutions to business corporations and accounting firms.
To understand how our cloud-based application, Avalara India GST, can help you with GST compliance automation, contact us through https://www.avalara.com/in/products/gst-returns-filing.