Implications of GST for Trading


India is amongst the fastest growing economies of the world, with retail trade contributing an estimated $600 billion+ to the economy. The impact which GST, the unified indirect tax structure introduced by the Government of India on July 1 2017, brings on such a major economic lever will be highly significant.

Further, the implications of this new taxation procedure on the trader will vary on the nature of the trade, i.e., wholesale or retail. In this blog, we explain the opportunities within the new tax reform that traders can leverage, and discuss how they can prepare themselves from a GST perspective. Read on to know the effects of this latest indirect tax reform for:

  1. Wholesalers
  2. Retailers
  3. Importers and Exporters

1. For Wholesalers:

The wholesale market is fundamental to extending the reach of goods and services to the interiors of the country, especially the rural markets. Most wholesalers operate in cash transactions because of which there is a good chance that some transactions are not accounted for, which was previously a concern but ceases to be one under GST.

Given below are the main advantages that GST brings to wholesalers.

  • Transparent tax management: The introduction of technology into the taxation system can be a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to bring about transparency in tax management. Rather than relying on cash transactions, wholesalers will now get an opportunity to go digital. They will also be able to avail the facility of input tax credit. Input tax credit is where the businessman will be able to claim tax on all input goods and/or services. For example, if a wholesaler is renting a tempo for transport of goods, going ahead they will be able to claim the tax paid on the rental and receive it as input credit. They will thus be able to reduce the final market price of the transported goods by making up for that amount.
  • Financial streamlining: Because the entire supply value chain including tax flows will be on GST records, wholesalers will be better connected to retailers and suppliers. For example, the payment for a consignment will reflect in the accounting records of the supplier company as well as the wholesaler, leaving no ambiguity about payables and receivables. This will make it easier to process payments and get tax returns in a timely manner, thereby improving the cash flows of traders. A reliable positive cash flow will help build confidence in the new regime, by making working capital available and aiding opportunities to grow the business.
  • Reorganization of supply chain: GST will enable high visibility and streamlining of the supply chain, providing wholesalers with a transparent view of supply movements. For example, taxation at the “place of supply” is already mobilizing FMCG companies establish fewer warehouses, the sizes of which will be larger than before. This will aid business efficiency in the long run. However, in the initial transition phase, many wholesalers may undergo de-stocking since they would have already paid VAT on their current stocks, and would like to avail of the input tax credit on the basis of the GST rules.
  • Ease of borrowing through digital lending: Because financial and tax transactions will now be recorded in the GST system, even small traders will have digital records of their company finances and credit status. These digital records will act as a ready reckoner of information when a trader opts for a loan. Financial institutions and online lenders like Capital Float can now easily assess the loan eligibility of small traders such as Kirana owners by accessing this data, and provide them quick and easy loans. Borrowing funds online and doing business will now be easier.

2. For Retailers:

Almost 92% of the retail sector in India is unorganised, operating in cash payments. They are, essentially, the tangible representation of FMCG multinationals to end-consumers; yet they are challenged by chronic issues such as the lack of technology enablement and low operating margins. A majority of the retail market consists of “kirana stores”, which are often the smallest link of the trade chain.

Here are the benefits of the new taxation system for retailers.

  • Input tax credit facility: As mentioned for wholesalers, retailers too would be able to claim taxes paid for input products and services availed. This will present a cost advantage to retailers. For example, under the previous tax regime, if a retailer purchases a refrigerator to store perishable goods, they were not able to claim credit for tax paid on it. Under GST, they will be able to claim the tax paid on the new refrigerator when they file their taxes. This will be possible due to tax connections reflecting in the GST value chain at each stage of the transaction. Availing input tax credit means financial gain.
  • Ease of entry into the market: The market is expected to become more business-friendly due to the clarity of processes related to procurement of raw materials and better supply logistics. This is a good opportunity for new suppliers, distributors and vendors to enter the market. The registration process has also become very clear under the GST, aiding entry into the market.
  • Retailer empowerment through information availability: Small retailers often do not have complete visibility into their stock receipts, payments, etc. and are forced to blindly rely on the word of the supplier. GST will streamline these supply and cost challenges and empower the retailer with readily available information through digital systems. For example, when different types of bills like invoices, credit and debit notes, etc. are stored digitally as proposed by GST using accounting software, these will provide retailers with real-time reports on sales, stock information and live balance sheets, in addition to performing error checks before placing an entry into ledgers.
  • Better borrowing opportunity: The retailer scope for business growth can be increased by increasing the retailers’ access to finance. This is where Fintech lenders like Capital Float step in – they can ease their passage to the new tax regime. Capital Float recognises the financial challenges these small business players face and strives to bridge this gap by financing them with small ticket loans. As “kiranas” move onto GSTN, Capital Float will be able to better serve this micro-entrepreneur segment, helping them overcome upcoming challenges by leveraging the GST-enabled digital footprint.

However, like any new reform, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed. We see that both retailers and wholesalers must manage the following eventualities of GST implementation.

!  Higher costs of input services: Input services such as manpower, legal, professional services, auditor services, travel expenses, etc. will now be taxed at 18% as against the earlier bracket of 15%, leading to higher costs to the wholesaler.

! Additional costs to upgrade technology: Many wholesalers, especially rural ones, are not technology-savvy and will need to rely on help from their supplier companies to undergo a technological transformation. This means that supplier companies may need to increase commissions for wholesalers— an added cost to the company, or wholesalers and retailers themselves will need to invest in new systems, incurring additional expenses.

3. For Importers and Exporters

According to the financial reports of 2016, India is the 16th largest export economy in the world with the net value of exports contributing to one-third of the GDP. The subsuming of various local state level taxes will have a direct impact on imports and exports, a critical component of trade. For example, the Countervailing Duty (CVD- an additional import duty levied to offset the effect of concessions or subsidies, currently 0% or 6% or 12%) and Special Additional Duty (SAD- a special kind of customs duty paid on imported goods currently at 4%) have been done away with under the new GST regime. However, Basic Customs Duty continues to be applicable and importers will need to pay it as per previous rates.

Here is a look at the overall impact of GST on trade:

  • Imports Taxation: Every import will be treated as an interstate supply, and will be subject to Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) along with Basic Customs Duty (ranging between 5% and 40% depending on the good imported). This implies that IGST will be levied on any imported item, based on the value of the imported goods and any customs duty chargeable on the goods (say 10%). IGST is a combination of SGST (say 9%) and CGST (say 9%). For instance, for an import item worth Rs 10,000:
Total Duties + Taxes Payable Basic Customs Duty (10%) GST (18%) GST Cess(if applicable)
₹2800 ₹1000 ₹1800 Nil

Thus, imports taxation is an added tax liability for retailers who import goods or services.

  • Exports Taxation: Exports will be treated as zero-rated supply, i.e., no GST will be charged on exports. This is in line with the “Make in India” campaign that aims to make India a global manufacturing hub, for which exports are important.
  • Import of Services: The new clause of import of services places the onus of tax payments on the service receiver when the services are provided by a person residing outside India. This mechanism is called reverse charge and will apply in certain scenarios. For example, if the assessee has no physical presence in the taxable area, then the representative of the assesse will be required to pay tax. In the absence of representation, the assesse has to appoint a representative who will be liable to pay GST. Another example is when a registered dealer is buying goods or services from an unregistered dealer. In this case, the registered dealer will have to pay the tax on supply.
  • Need for restructuring working capital: A major shift is that GST is based on “transaction value” rather than MRP. In the old system, CVD was charged as a percentage of the MRP. Under GST, IGST will be charged as a percentage of the transaction value. This will affect the cash reserves of retailers and wholesalers, and they will need to reassess their working capital needs.

On the whole, GST is expected to bring domestic players at par with large multinational corporations due to the renewed import and export norms and the rules for FMCG suppliers. This is a good sign for Indian trade and exports in general, and thus the implementation of GST shows promise to propel India onto the international trade arena.Visit our GST blog to know more about GST and keep track of latest.