Companies in race to grab bigger slice of tech solutions pie

Taxpayers have several options to ensure compliance under the goods and service tax (GST), with the government as well as corporates and startups vying to provide tech solutions for the swarm of filings expected under the new regime.
ET reported earlier this week that several GST Suvidha Providers (GSPs) have concerns about being fully prepared once the floodgates are opened on August 10, which is when the first filings are set to be made. GSPs have invested in multiple products aimed at each layer of the taxpaying pyramid.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are expected to comprise bulk of the 8 million taxpaying entities likely to be registered under the system. So far, 6.5 million entities have registered, according to the GST Network (GSTN), the agency running the technological pipelines through which encrypted invoices will flow to a central base.The window will be opened again at the end of the month to allow more registrations.
GSTN itself is aiming to be the first choice for small taxpayers and has built an offline tool where data can be entered in an Excel sheet, which will especially help those with limited access to the internet. This can be uploaded whenever online access is available. The free offline tool can be downloaded from the GST portal in the last week of June, GSTN said.
The agency will release the Excel format in which businesses will need to maintain their data for use with the free offline tool on July 1.“Few taxpayers will need to go through GSPs,” GSTN CEO Prakash Kumar told ET earlier this week in response to queries about whether they will be prepared by August, given the delay in the opening up of application programme interfaces (APIs).
“Taxpayers using the offline tool will not require services of any GSP. Similarly, those having small number of business to business (B2B) invoices, like retailers and small traders, can do the data entry on (GSTN’s) portal itself and they will also not require the services of GSPs,” Kumar said.
Those seeking more complex and automated options can opt for the services of GSPs and application service providers (ASPs) that will plug into GSTN’s APIs.
Alankit Ltd, a GSP, plans to introduce a PoS (point of sale) device for small businesses that have not yet adopted technology-enabled transaction modes, both for the purpose of payments and financial book-keeping. The PoS device will incorporate a tablet, a card swiping option and a small printer along with a fingerprint scanner for Aadhaar-enabled payments.
The device, when connected to the internet, will transfer all transaction data onto the ASP platform for easy record keeping and further processing of invoices as per GST guidelines.
“Even when the device is offline, it would record transactions for easy transmission later,” said Ankit Agarwal, managing director, Alankit. “This solution would work at the grassroots level to help the small and unorganized businesses comply with the GST regime.”
NSDL E-governance Infrastructure Ltd, a unit of National Securities Depository Ltd, recently announced its rate for SMEs of `2,700 per year for businesses filing up to 9,000 invoices, which would be the focus area for the company.
ClearTax, a startup that offers a tax-filing platform, said it will start offering ASP product to SMEs at Rs 100 per month, going up to Rs 5,000 per year.
While other GSPs and ASPs are still to announce pricing, they are all expected to be competitive given the sheer number of players.
While there are 34 shortlisted GSPs, hundreds of companies are turning into ASPs to cash in on the business opportunity.
ClearTax, for instance, has invested more than $5 million in its ASP solution already and is ready to deploy more.
Filed in: News

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