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Traders threaten strike if return filing under GST not made simpler

The Poona Merchants' Chamber said a nationwide traders' strike is inevitable if the Union government does not iron out difficulties in filing goods and services tax (GST) returns or clear confusions its tax slabs. Office-bearers of the chamber said many traders, especially in semi-urban and rural areas, have not filed their monthly returns as required under the GST mechanism due to poor infrastructure. All GST returns have to be filed online, including furnishing invoices and documentation of unsold stocks. "We do not have a number as to how many traders affiliated with us have not filed the returns. The GST e-filing portal is often out of service and is not equipped to handle the rush," Popatlal Ostwal, president of the chamber, said. In semi-urban and rural areas of Maharashtra, there are 18 to 20 hours of power cuts. "Even internet connectivity is poor in these areas.Despite two filing cycles ha ving passed, people are still having trouble with the system," Ostwal said, while addressing a news conference here on Wednesday. He said traders have spent an average of around Rs 20,000 to comply with the new tax regime. Failure to file the returns within the specified time period attracts a daily fine along with interest on the tax liability. The traders are also miffed about having to file monthly returns. Three returns need to be filed each filing cycle, under the state, Centre and integrated GST regimes. Traders said a system of quarterly returns must be instituted. "We will make traders' demands to known to state and central GST officials and state finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar at a conference in Nashik on Thursday, where traders too will be present. There are a lot of other issues as well, including the government not refunding the input tax credit on time," Ashok Lodha, secretary of the chamber, said. Businessmen also accused the GST Council of not doing enough to iron out the resulting confusion from taxing branded agro products. "The Union government has not done enough to clear confusion regarding branded agro goods. They need to state clearly which are the registered brands and tax them only at the higher slab. They also need to lay out the registered brands so traders have no issues while filing returns," Walchand Sancheti of the Federation of Association of Traders said.

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