The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is now a reality. However, while the law has seen the light of day, the rollout of the GST Bill will be a collective effort of the Central and State Governments, the tax payers and the IT platform provider i.e. GSTN, CBEC and State Tax Departments. Besides these main participants there are going to be other stakeholders e.g. Central and States tax authorities, RBI, the banks, the tax professionals (tax return preparers, Chartered Accountants, Tax Advocates, STPs etc.), financial services providing companies like ERP and accounting software providers etc.
The GST System is going to have a G2B portal for taxpayers to access the GST Systems. However, that would not be the only way for interacting with the GST system as the taxpayer will be able to interact with the GST system via his choice of third party applications, which will provide all user interfaces and conveniences via desktop, mobile and other interfaces. The third party applications will connect with the GST system via secure GST System APIs. All such applications are expected to be developed by third party service providers who have been given a generic name - GST Suvidha Providers or GSP.
Who are GST Suvidha Providers (GSP)?
GST Suvidha Provider meaning GSPs are those entities who have been envisaged to provide innovative and convenient methods to taxpayers and other stakeholders in interacting with the GST Systems – right from registration of entity, to uploading of invoice details, to filing of returns. Thus there will be two sets of interactions, one between the application user and the GSP and the second between the GSP and the GST System. It is envisaged that the application provider and GSP could be the same entity.
In the evolving environment of the new GST regime it is envisioned that the GST Suvidha Providers concept is going to play a very important and strategic role. It is the endeavour of the GSTN to build the GSP ecosystem, ensure its success by putting in place an open, transparent and participative framework for capable and motivated enterprises and entrepreneurs.
GST Suvidha Provider Concept
It is expected that the GSPs shall provide the tax payers with all services pertaining to GST compliance, in addition to maintaining their individual business ledgers (sales ledger and purchase ledger) and other value added services around the same. Another important service expected from GSPs is the automatic reconciliation of purchases made and entered in the purchase register and data downloaded in the form of GSTR-2 from the GST portal. In addition, there will be sector-specific or trade specific needs which the GSPs are expected to fulfil.
While the GST System will have a G2B portal for taxpayers to access the GST System there will be a wide variety of tax payers (SME, large enterprise, small retail vendor etc.) who will require different kind of facilities like converting their purchase/sales register data in the GST compliant format, integration of their accounting packages/ERP with the GST System etc. Similarly, the specific needs of an industry or trade could be met by the GSP. In short, the GSP can help the taxpayers in GST compliance through their innovative solutions.
GSP Design & Implementation Framework
The tax payer's convenience will be a key in the success of the GST regime. The tax payer should have a choice to use third party applications which can provide varied interfaces on desktops, laptops and mobiles and can connect with GST System. The GSP developed applications will connect with the GST system via secure GST system APIs. Most of the GST system functionalities related to GST compliance requirements shall be available to the GSP through APIs. GSPs may use GST APIs and enrich and enhance the tax payer's experience.
The benefits of an API based integration are:
- Consumption across technologies and platforms (mobile, tablets, desktops, etc.) based on the individual requirements
- Automated upload and download of data
- Ability to adapt to changing taxation and other business rules and end user usage models.
- Integration with customer software (ERP, accounting systems) that tax payers and others are already using for their day to day activities
Who can become a GST Suvidha Provider?
The organisations and entities who are expected to sign up as a GSP for GST are visualised to be as under:
- Registered companies in India in the IT / ITES / BFSI domain.
- The prospective applicant for GSP will need to meet a pre-qualification criteria for GSPs.
- GSPs who meet the pre-qualification criteria will sign a contract with GSTN to become an authorised GSP.
- This draft contract has the following content:
- Definitions, responsibilities of GSPs and their legal obligations as well as liabilities.
- Technical architectural framework as to how GSPs shall integrate with GST System
- Commercial terms and conditions along with SLAs to be met.
What will be the GST Suvidha Provider charges?
GSPs will be free to charge the tax payers depending on the services they offer to the tax payers. All agreements between tax payers and GSPs shall be decided by them exclusively. GSTN will not have any control on them. While the billing plan or charges are entirely up to the GSPs, it can be expected that in a bid to be competitive, GSPs for GST India will need to be pragmatic in their pricing anyway.
List of GSP in GST
The GST Suvidha Provider registration process was conducted across the months of October to December 2016, post which the shortlisting was carried out across January and February 2017. In March 2017, the first GST Suvidha Provider shortlist of 34 was announced, and contracts were signed with the shortlisted GSPs. On signing of the contract, each GSP obtained a unique license key for accessing the GST system. GSPs will be authenticated using this license key (Client ID + Client Secret) provided by the GSTN and will also have a provision to generate multiple License keys as per its need.