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Refunds Held Up For Discrepancies

Central board of Excise and Customs chairperson Vanaja N. Sarna tells Mahua Venkatesh that no case of refund where documents were duly filed with correct information were held back by the department

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

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It’s been over nine months now, but problems relating to GST continue. What is the reason?
It is important to understand that in a country like India — in terms of size and population — there are bound to be some hiccups. Any new overhauling structure will take time to settle down. It is not that we had not anticipated some of these problems. One of the main highlights of this tax system is that there is no scope for manual intervention — it is totally electronic. That being so, solutions to the problems being faced need to be such that these do not disrupt the running system.

A recent World Bank report said the Indian GST is one of the most complex in the world. Your comments.
I read about it in the newspapers, though I am yet to go through the report. I believe other aspects too have been highlighted in the report that are positive and complimentary in nature. Nonetheless, I am not disputing what they (World Bank) have said. It is their observation and they are entitled to have their assessment. But let me tell you that GST was launched on 1 July last year, so it is not even a year. Their assessment is therefore based on just the initial phase and that cannot be the final observation. It is still work-in- progress. If you take the example of other countries that introduced GST, you will see that it took some time for GST to get completely sorted out.

The electronic or e-way bill will be effective from 1 April. Are we prepared for it or will there be disruptions again?
We are certainly equipped to handle the e-way bill system. The entire system will be implemented in a phased manner. For inter-state movement, the e-way bill will be introduced from 1 April, and for intra-state, it will be rolled out in a phased manner. The entire country will be covered by June. So, we expect it to be rather seamless.

Q. Exporters have been complaining about their pending refunds. What action is CBEC taking?
There are various estimates and some are highly exaggerated. Let me point out that cases of refund where documents have been duly filed with correct information have not been held back by the department. CBEC has granted 63 per cent of valid refunds. Most refunds are held up due to discrepancies in the data provided by exporters and these are being electronically processed, so there is no scope for any manual intervention. About 30 per cent are stuck due to lack of matching invoices, and about 7 per cent due to EGM (export general manifest) errors. However, let me point out that I am aware that an amount of about Rs 3,500 crore is pending with CBEC for claims filed till February-end. I am committed to settling all complete claims by the month-end (March). We have had a meeting with FIEO and other stakeholders on this issue. We have organised a ‘Refund Fortnight’ for two weeks to help exporters in getting their claims.

Q. Is it true that mostly large-ticket refunds are getting delayed?

Refunds that are valid — big or small — are being settled and will be settled. Having said that, we have tried to ensure that small and medium exporters are least impacted.


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