10 steps towards hassle-free GST preparation

Without doubt, the roll-out of GST will turn out to be the most significant and far-reaching indirect tax reform that India has ever seen. It is going to impact almost all industries and businesses, some more than others. In the process, it will create a common Indian marketplace and reduce the cascading effect of taxes. To put it succinctly, GST will subsume all indirect taxes and create just one rate for the entire nation.

In view of the importance of this legislation, it makes sense to be fully prepared for it. Here is a list of 10 steps that corporate entities can take to implement GST in a hassle-free manner.

1. Upgrade ERP systems: In order to evaluate new tax structures, other cost implications, companies need to upgrade their ERP systems. This is essential to accommodate the complexities of calculating GST.

2. Get a fix on which software modules need to be changed: As GST will have more of an impact on data management and taxation, organizations need to look into their present versions of finance solutions and plan accordingly. The revamp exercise is not going to be a standard software patch that can be applied to their systems at one go. Companies will have to be very clear about which modules of their software are going to be affected, and how they will correlate the changes with GST.

3. Revamp IT and accounting systems: Companies need to evaluate the impact of GST on IT and accounting systems. Partnering with software companies can make the transition easier and quicker.

4. Familiarization with GST Network: GST Network (GSTN) is the one-stop tax portal that the Government has set up to provide tax filing and input credit services. Companies need to train their finance departments and familiarize them with the new regulations by holding GSTN workshops and sessions.

5. Engage with the government: Bigger companies can engage with the government, the finance ministry and various chambers of commerce for an expedited understanding of GST to ensure smooth implementation and compliance. They can ask for detailed disclosures of rules and procedures.

6. Follow best practices of other countries: Companies can prepare themselves better for GST implementation by gaining an understanding of best practices of other nations with regard to consolidated indirect tax systems.

7. Train suppliers: Larger multinationals should also encourage their smaller suppliers to begin preparing for the switch to GST in order to make supply chains more efficient.

8. Update backend systems: Companies need to keep their backend systems updated in order to transition to GST seamlessly.

9. Monitor progress: Getting ready for GST compliance is a huge challenge. Companies need to keep on monitoring their progress from time to time so as not to fall back.

10. Take employees into confidence: As companies take steps to get ready for GST compliance, they may encounter disruption of internal processes. They need to take their employees into confidence and explain that this is a temporary phenomenon, and things will fall into place soon.

The roll-out of GST has already been delayed due to lack of a political consensus. The government is now hoping to kick-start the initiative on April 1, 2017. That leaves very little time for companies to upgrade their systems to comply with the new tax regime. Several companies have already taken steps to be GST-compliant; others need to catch up fast.

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