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Online glitches mar first leg of GST migration

A technical snag in the online migration to the goods and services tax domain kept thousands of Bengal traders, manufacturers, service providers and dealers waiting on Thursday, the last day of registration for the new indirect tax regime. According to conservative estimates, around 70,000 VAT dealers and 15,000-20,000 service tax and excise dealers failed to migrate. But GST Network, the company running the technology platform, said businesses need not panic as a fresh window to enrol will open on June 25, days before GST kicks in from July 1. A senior official in the state commercial tax department, however, pointed out that migration in large taxpayers' unit (LTU) was satisfactory with almost 95% of the 700-odd LTUs having already enrolled their names. "There is a problem in migration. In the last three-four days, we have faced lot of technical issues. Out of 2.20 lakh VAT dealers, around 70% have migrated. Now that the window will reopen, hopefully the rest of the businesses will be able to shift by then," he said. When contacted, the chief commissioner of service tax, S K Panda, assured that those who could not migrate will get a window for registration. "The second window will open soon. I would advise that if anybody is facing any problem, they can come to GST Seva Kendra and apply in front of our officers so that they get help in case of technical problems," he said. GST registration is not mandatory for businesses having a turnover of up to Rs 20 lakh. Noted indirect tax expert Arun Agarwal said many people were yet to register to the GST network. "Many businesses registered under VAT haven't yet migrated. The same problem is there with service tax and excise," he added. Agarwal, however, felt that migration would not remain a problem. "Once the composite tax system is being rolled out, everybody will be registered eventually. This is apart from the second window for registration to GST."

Atish Chakraborty, general secretary of Commercial Taxes Practitioners Association, expressed concern that GST is constitutionally time-bound and inability to implement it would mean there would be no tax system in India. He said, "It would mean the collapse of the entire tax system. It is therefore necessary to complete the entire process as soon as possible." Siddhartha Mukhopadhyay, general secretary of the Tax Advocates' Association of Bengal, said: "We have organised seminars to educate people on GST registration. The ongoing digital signature system itself is giving a lot of problems making people unable to register and migrate." Samir Kumar Ghosh, an advocate Tax Advocates' Association of Bengal, said, "The entire system after registration shows a validation error. Now, there would be no option but to extend deadline if the process is to be completed. Surprisingly, a lot of people have not even a received their provisional ID." Swetha Mukherjee, an advocate in the bar council, said, "It is the task of the Centre to make people aware of the GST, especially in the rural areas. People are not able to generate the OTP (one-time password) on their phones."

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