The Gauhati High Court on Tuesday directed the Union of India to decide within a week the representations filed by All India Federation of Tax Practioners and the Tax Bar Association of Guwahati seeking extension of time to file GSTR 9 (Annual Return) and GSTR 9C (Reconciliation form).
The due date for filing the forms is March 31, 2020.
While disposing of the writ petition filed by these associations, a bench of Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia observed :
"The respondent would also address the issue of extending the time for 30 days, so far as filing of GST Returns in the State of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh is concerned, in view of the peculiar conditions prevalent in these states"
T Dr Ashok Saraf, Senior Advocate appearing for the petitioners, submitted that there were so many technical glitches in the computer system that tax payers are not able to file their returns in time.
The Petitioners have submitted that the GST portal was amended very frequently and the last update was made during the window filing of GSTR-9C. However, the latest update had not been functioning properly and it was taking much more than anticipated time to save the data on the portal.
"GSTR- 9C version 1.6 was released on 08.01.2020. However, from 19.01.2020 to 22.01.2020, the GST Network failed and even GSTR 3Bcould not be filed. Since 25.01.2020, the data entered online does not get saved, which otherwise gets saved immediately, and an error message gets generated. Since 1.30 p.m of 31.01.2020, the site has almost collapsed. The last date of filing the forms and returns for the F.Y. 2018-19 is 31.03.2020 but till date the GSTR-9 and GSTR-9C forms have not been made available," the plea read.
GSTR 9 and 9C are Annual Return and Reconciliation form respectively, filed to correct the mistakes that may have been committed while filing of GSTR-1 and GSTR-3B and to self-assess the tax liability by the tax payers with the help of the GST Auditors and pay the same.
Failure to file these forms on time, attract both late fees as well as penal liability. Hence, the Petitioners have sought extension of the date of filing of these forms for a reasonable time and/or to allow them to submit those forms without payment of late fee and penalty.
Thus, the Petitioners have sought extension of date of filing these forms for a reasonable time and/or allow the petitioner to submit these forms without payment of late fee and penalty.
The Petitioners contended that without making the GST portal system properly workable, insisting for submission of returns and audit form on the portal and providing for realization of late fee and penalty for non submission is nothing but pure and simple measures to collect revenue from the tax payers which cannot be made mandatory by law and such realization is not only violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India but same is also violative of Article 265 of the Constitution of India.
They have argued that the GST authority cannot be allowed to perform its duties in a "capricious manner" and the same must be interfered with by the Court.
The Petitioners have stated that extending the deadline will cause no real loss to the revenue since GSTR-9 & GSTR-9C may only determine some differential liability while the taxpayers have already filed their GSTR 3B & GSTR- I for FY 2017-18 and the tax due thereon is already deposited in the government treasury.
The plea further states that filing Form 9C is a "herculean task" and therefore, the GST Law provides that a taxpayer may file GSTR-9 by December 31 every year after the end of the financial year, leaving 9 months sufficient time to complete the audit work. However, the amended utility of Simplified GSTR-9 and GSTR-9C was made available on GST Portal only on January 6, 2020, leaving merely 25 days to fill up the form and thereafter prepare reconciliation and submit GSTR-9C.
In this regard it was submitted,
"The data published by Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) reveals that only 19.85% of GSTR-9C could be filed by 25th Jan, 2020 and in our opinion, based on the feedback of CA members, 80% remaining GSTR-9Cs cannot be filed by 31st Jan, 2020 even with their best efforts."
They further pointed out that the announcement to extend the due date for filing these forms for F.Y 2017-18 was made by the Central Board of Indirect Tax and Customs when the time to file these forms was about to expire, via its Twitter handle, that too in a staggered manner for different groups of states.
In this regard the Petitioner has submitted that such an action on part of the CBIC is completely baseless inasmuch as in a State like Assam, people who resides at remote areas and who are not conversant with the Twitter handle etc. will not be able to make use of the said extended date and thereby no benefit will accrue to the said tax payers. The people residing in the other NE States are in a worse position as in some of the places, there is no internet facilities at all.
Click Here To Download Petition