Srinagar: As internet services continue to remain blocked in Kashmir, businessmen and traders continue to face challenges here even as the government has designated facilitation centres for filing Goods and Services Tax (GST) returns.
Internet services in the region were snapped on August 5, as the government unilaterally abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. The communication blockade caused a major crisis in the newly created UT due to which businessmen and traders failed to file their GST returns for over three months.
As businessmen were not able to file their GST returns since after July, all regional districts administration have facilitated the filing of GST returns by providing internet facilitation kiosks.
The civil administration, however, had to extend the date of filing returns several times and earlier this month, the deadline was again extended from November 18 to December 20.
At the Sales and Tax Department office in Srinagar, there are about 60 computers designated for the use of traders to file their returns. “On an average, as many as 100 traders have filed their returns from the past week,” an official of the department said.
At the facility, the traders can only use the internet for filing GST returns and can access their emails for passwords. All other surfing has been banned in these labs.
“It takes anywhere between half an hour to an hour and a half for traders to file five returns. We have not kept a deadline for timing,” the official added.
The department have divided the region into 31 circles, 16 of them in the city and the rest in rural areas. According to a senior sales and tax department official, there are around 48,000 businessmen across the Kashmir region who had to submit their GST returns. Since the establishment of facilitation centres on December 5, as many as 1200 traders per day have been successful in filing their returns. A majority of traders are yet to file their returns.
With only 40% traders able to file their returns so far, it is unlikely, traders say, that they will be able to meet with the return filing deadline marked by the government.
President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) Sheikh Ashiq is apprehensive about the December 20 deadline citing lack of adequate time and expertise.
“There inconvenience is massive and unless broadband services are restored, the problem cannot be solved. Filing returns is not a one-time process and businessmen have to submit a fine for failing to meet the deadline; it’s a consuming issue,” Ashiq says.
Ashiq adds that earlier, not all traders used to file their GST returns on their own. “Traders would involve experts to file returns, but most of them have left the Valley and now many traders are forced to file it on their own for the first time. There is a possibility of filing returns wrongly,” he shares.
Earlier, the GSTIN numbers of scores of businessmen in the Valley were blocked due to their failure in meeting the set deadlines since July. The GSTINs were blocked from generating e-way bills, created after details of a transaction are entered into the GST portal account of a taxpayer. Without the bill, the record of the transaction cannot be maintained.
In a November communique, authorities in the region admitted that the percentage of the returns filed this year have been very low leading to a considerable dip in the revenue collections for the past four months.