Impact of GST on Working Capital for Businesses

Rajath Kumar

The Goods and Services Tax or GST is ready for a rollout on July 1, 2017. Various rules, procedures and action items have already been outlined for the transition to the new, unified system of indirect taxation. Businesses and taxpayers alike are expected to embrace these changes and get ready for the new normal—the era of standardized taxation. GST is expected to impact businesses significantly, especially those with cross-location presence, with operations across states. Both large and established goods and service providers, as well as SMEs, will be significantly impacted, both in terms of financial and operational sustainability.

What is GST?

GST will enable standardization of the indirect taxation under four slabs—5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. The change in tax rules will have a direct impact on cash flows and working capital loans for businesses. From the line of credit to taxation levels and timelines, businesses will have to reassess and realign themselves. On the one hand, local and Central taxes such as VAT, Service Tax, Excise Tax and others will be subsumed; on the other hand, tax slabs may increase; for example, from 15% under Service Charge to 18% under the third GST slab. As a result, immediate available working capital finance levels will change.

GST and working capital

Working capital is a key factor in the health of a business. Businesses should focus on periodically assessing their working capital needs. The impending GST rollout makes this even more imperative. This is because the tax bucket your business falls under will change depending on various factors such as the nature of business, locational spread and more. Not just this, the rules and timelines for availing a line of credit will also be revamped under the new GST regime. This means that cash flow will be impacted, and you may need to look for new sources of working capital finance. After all, sustaining day-to-day business operations is essential to growing your business, especially if you are an SME with low financial reserves. Working capital is, in a way, a reflection of the financial health of your company.

Here are some of the key changes GST is expected to usher in:

  1. Input tax credits will open up: According to the current tax system, input tax credit is available only on inputs that are related to taxable output. For expenses that are not related to taxable sales, input credit cannot be availed. However, under GST, a feature called the “Furtherance of Business” has been introduced. Under this, credit is allowed for any kind of business input, irrespective of whether it is directly used for “taxable sales”. This is a positive development and increases the scope for business to avail an additional line of credit. As a result, the immediate cash requirements will reduce, and working capital flow will get better. Businesses must closely study the GST clauses to understand how to benefit from input credit across newly added areas.
  2. Timeline of tax payment: Under the new GST rules, the tax is levied when the stock is transferred. As a result, businesses will not be able to claim tax credits till the time of sale, which may result in a huge time lag. Working capital levels might experience a drop during this time. Evaluating working capital finance specialists such as Capital Float is recommended, to ensure that business operations remain unaffected.
  3. Moving goods will be easier: Under the current tax regime, a lot of time and effort is spent by companies who have multiple presence across states (warehouses, offices, factories etc.)—they need to adhere to multiple laws such as octroi, CST and so on while moving goods across state borders. This complexity adds to the cost of doing business across states. With GST, this movement of goods across the country will be simplified and more cost-friendly.
  4. Imports will be costlier: If your company is in the business of procuring raw materials from outside, you may experience escalated costs soon. The current import duty rate of 14% will be replaced by a standard GST rate of 18%, making imports expensive.
  5. Reprimands for suppliers’ non-compliance: The input tax credit levels will depend on whether your suppliers comply with taxation and financial norms. This will make it imperative for your suppliers to declare their outward supplies along with their tax payment.  You will also be held accountable if your supplier fails to furnish valid returns. This is an unfavourable practice for your business since in the event of their non-compliance, your input credit tax claims can be reversed and you may have to pay interest. It is, therefore, important that you assess your vendor base from a compliance perspective to avoid impacting your working capital

These are some of the direct ways GST will impact the working capital of your business. Should you need to augment your working capital to ensure a healthy cash flow under GST, you can turn to new age fintech lenders like Capital Float who are creating innovative and customised financial products. Our term finance offering, for example, is tailored to ease your working capital crunch with features such as zero collateral requirements, 3-day loan disbursal and customized credit criteria. Click here for more GST Blogs.