Consequences of Not Forwarding GST Benefits to Your Customers

It’s been a while since the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime was implemented all across the nation and the improvements are already apparent. However, the government wants GST to work at all costs. So, taking no chances, it has set up an anti-profiteering clause to check the businesses that are non-compliant in the GST system.

As a business owner, you are expected to pass on the benefit of GST to your customers under the Section 171(1) in the following two manners:

  1. Reducing the Tax Rates on Eligible Goods and/or Services

For the majority of the goods and services, the tax rates have been either dropped or remained close to the previous tax rates. So, you are required to pass on the benefit of the reduced taxes to your customers by offering the same products and services at reduced prices.

For instance, In the older regime, eating out was taxed at about 20% (14% VAT + 5% Service Tax + 0.5% Swacch Bharat Cess + 0.5% Krishi Kalyan Cess). However, under the GST regime, the same is taxed at a flat 18%. So, you are required to adjust the rates of the food items you are selling accordingly.

In some cases, the tax rates have actually increased. For instance, broadband services are now taxed 3% higher than the previous regime (as it jumped from 15% to 18%). So, in this case, you are allowed to increase the rates of your services in this case as well.

  1. Adjusting Prices with Input Tax Credits

One of the biggest changes that GST brought was the elimination of double-taxes. Businesses can now deduct the repeat-taxes by claiming input tax credits on eligible products and/or services. However, you are expected to pass on this benefit to your customers by reducing the prices on the products and/or services offered by you.

For instance, previously you had to pay taxes on the raw materials used for production of a certain item and again when selling the same to the traders.  However, under the GST regime, you can deduct the tax paid on the former from the total tax paid. This benefit has to be passed to your customers in the form of discounts or offers.

Anti-Profiteering Committee

Since GST is a new tax regime, most of the average consumers don’t know about the benefits it has to offer. Thus, it’s possible for the businesses to exploit the system and make excessive profits through exploitation. This why the finance ministry and the GST Council decided to set up an anti-profiteering clause that’s managed by an anti-profiteering committee.

The sole purpose of the anti-profiteering committee is to ensure that the businesses don’t exploit the GST system by overcharging their customers or by not passing on the benefits the regime has to offer.

If you are found guilty of not-passing the benefits to your customers then the anti-profiteering committee can:

  • Order you to reduce the prices of your goods and/or services
  • Ask you to return the benefit amount not passed on to the buyer with an additional 18% interest
  • Penalize you as per its discretion
  • Cancel your registration altogether

The government has authorized the anti-profiteering committee to intervene in the business operations of a company if it has a reason to believe that some unfair practices are involved.

In conclusion, to safeguard your business it’s extremely important that you adjust the rates of your services and/or goods according to the GST benefits available to you. Failing to do so can invite a legal action or possible shutting down of the business altogether.

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