Hyderabad: For thousands of businessmen, small and big, Monday evening was a nightmare. It was the last day to file a GST (Goods and Services Tax) returns — GSTR3B. However, the GST website would not cooperate. Heavy traffic meant the website was barely functioning, forcing many to miss the deadline.
The issue was so widespread that twitter was overrun by posts with the hashtag “#GSTR3B”. Multiple users, many of them accountants bearing the brunt, shared their troubles via memes and jokes. At one point, with more than 15,000 tweets, the hashtag was the fifth most popular on Twitter India. Frustrated users slammed the central government and officials concerned, for the website’s breakdown.
“The deadline for GSTR3B is the 20th of every month,” said Alok Agarwal, a Hyderbad-based chartered accountant. “However, recently the government announced that another return (GSTR1), which did not have a deadline until then, would be January 17. Many people missed this deadline and were trying to file as soon as possible. Simultaneously, firms have to submit their annual GSTR9 and GSTR9C returns by January 31. This led to many users logging onto the website on the day.”
Almost no one was spared. Many were prompted with a message asking them to wait. Those who were lucky to proceed further had to spend several minutes on each screen/form. Their details would barely get saved and if it failed, they were forced to start all over again.
Furthermore, the even luckier ones who got to the final screen were made to wait for a one-time-password to finish the filing process. This OTP is ideally supposed to be messaged to the taxpayer’s mobile phone within minutes, but many didn’t even get an OTP. Worse, if the OTP didn’t arrive within 30 minutes, the entire session expired and all the work was wasted. Inevitably, many missed the deadline altogether.
Agarwal said the number of concurrent users on the GST website is around 1.5 lakh. “There are crores of people registered on this website. How can its concurrency be so small?” he asked.
It is learnt that the government was supposed to scale up the website to handle more than three lakh users in 2017. However, this hasn’t happened yet.
Furious Twitter users slammed the central government for the problem. Rohit Jain said GSTR3B was the “worst phase of tax compliance in the history of the country”. To make things worse, some users shared a tweet by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs which claimed the deadline had been extended by two days. This turned out to be false.
Multiple accountants said no extension had been announced by Tuesday evening and taxpayers should file their returns as soon as possible, along with the penalty.
Many suggested users not wait till the last day to file returns. Goverdhan, an accountant from Malakpet, said: “We are advising people to start documentation a few days earlier than usual. This will help. Of course, it is not ideal. The website should be improved but until then the users have no choice but to pay penalties even if it is the website’s fault.”...