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GST AND THE ROAD AHEAD

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GST AND THE ROAD AHEAD

Termed as historic, the passage of Goods and Services Tax or GST Constitution Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha will not only unite the country with one taxation rate but also empower states and increase their revenues. Although it is not very clear at this stage what will be the GST rate, there were requests to cap it at 18%. The Constitution (122nd) Amendment Bill, 2014 for Goods and Services Tax got passed with an absolute majority in the Rajya Sabha after the Union government dropped the contentious 1% additional inter-state tax and also agreed to pay full compensation to the states for five years towards revenue loss if any.

What is GST?

Dr. Sunil Gupta

Dr. Sunil Gupta

GST is envisaged to be a single umbrella tax that will replace multiple state and central levies. It is a tax on each and every economic activity, namely `supply of goods’ and `supply of services’, undertaken in the distribution chain. Aimed at simplifying the tax regime, GST will thus subsume all the indirect taxes like excise duty, service tax, Countervailing or Additional Customs Duty, Special Additional Duty of Customs, etc levied by the Centre and State.

Theoretically, GST is a value added tax levied on the intrinsic value of goods and services, designed to give credit input stage taxes to the entire distribution chain. As a consequence, the ultimate consumer bears the entire tax burden. When implemented, the single unified value-added tax system will help India transition into the world’s biggest single market. Proper functioning of all the aspects of CGST (Central GST) and SGST (State GST) are crucial for the success of GST.

Sectors that will benefit from one-nation-one tax regime

Automotive companies may see a demand surge if vehicle prices decline 8-10% because of the GST, according to a report released by Motilal Oswal.

FMCG is also considered a clear winner under the new tax regime as GST will remove multiple sales depots. This will result in enhanced savings in logistics and distribution costs and also see gains from warehouse rationalization. Currently, FMCG companies pay a huge chunk in indirect taxes, which will get significantly reduced.

E-commerce, similarly, will become cost-effective post GST since goods can move freely between states. With the elimination of cascading impact, cost at the final destination will be much lower.

Media, such as multiplex operators and DTH providers will see happy days ahead. Multiplex companies currently shell out close to 25% of the ARPU (average revenue per user) in taxes. GST is expected to reduce entertainment cost, VAT on F&B and service tax on input costs.

Cement manufacturers are likely to shell out much lower than the current 25% effective tax once GST is implemented. Transportation charges, which make up over 20% of cement companies’ revenues, will fall sharply under GST.

The Road Ahead

The most crucial point for GST implementation is meeting the deadline of April 1, 2017.  Let us explore some of the important facets below.

  1. The industries and businesses are looking forward to a GST rate of 18%. But the government is not ready to commit a number. If GST rates are finalized higher, say 20%, the States are likely to cry foul over revenue losses. The matter will be debated at the GST Council. The rate will also depend on the list of exempted items and demerit commodities, which is yet to be finalized.
  2. For the bill to become law, States will have to agree to the proposals enlisted in the Bill. Although a consensus has emerged between the two parties (the Centre and the States) to raise the revenue threshold under the new tax law to Rs 25 lakh, we will have to wait for the eventual decision.
  3. Mindset change will play a prominent role going ahead with GST. Not only is the government required to embark on a humongous staff training exercise at the Central and State level, but also adopt a strategy to include the industry and trade of all sizes in the new tax net.
  4. The current proposal under GST exhibits a sharp spike in tax rates for the Services sector. But the government cannot allow a high level of taxation on such an important sector and is likely to look for ways to ease it out while finalizing the rate structure.
  5. There is a strong plea to bring CGST and IGST bills as finance bills, but the government is reluctant to make a promise.
  6. At the current stage, it is not entirely clear how will cross empowerment of the two parties work. There are talks to impose a threshold limit of Rs 25 crore and do away with dual control. Only in due course of time, we will know if the states are willing to accept such a proposal.
  7. In future, we may also see the rationalization of various tax departments. The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) looks after custom, excise and service tax department. Thus, the CBEC will need to be revamped once the GST is legislated.
  8. Compensation aspect of GST is what thawed the earlier bottleneck. The States had rejected the Standing Committee recommendation of a staggered payout plan for five years and won the argument for full compensation.
  9. The model GST law also fueled speculations among brokers, mutual funds and retail investors that transactions in the capital market may invite levy of additional tax. The way it is worded, securities do appear to fall under the ambit of model law.

Conclusion

Since the passing of the Bill in Rajya Sabha, there has been an endless debate regarding the implementation of the GST. Here, it is important to note that many states offer tax benefits to bring in manufacturing units. It is not yet clear as to what will happen to such incentives in the GST era. Similarly, one is not sure if special economic zone will continue to be relevant once GST is implemented.

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Former Bank of England Governor Carney joins board of digital payments company Stripe

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Former Bank of England Governor Carney joins board of digital payments company Stripe 1

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Mark Carney, former head of the UK and Canadian central banks, has joined the board of U.S. digital payments company Stripe Inc, days after the company was reported to be planning a primary funding round valuing it at over $100 billion.

“Regulated in multiple jurisdictions and partnering with several dozen financial institutions around the world, Stripe will benefit from Mark Carney’s extensive experience of global financial systems and governance”, the company said on Sunday, confirming a report by the Sunday Times newspaper.

Forbes magazine had reported on Wednesday that investors were valuing Stripe at a $115 billion valuation in secondary-market transactions.

A senior Stripe executive told Reuters in December that the company plans to expand across Asia, including in Southeast Asia, Japan, China and India.

The company offers products that allow merchants to accept digital payments from customers and a range of business banking services.

Stripe raised $600 million in April in an extension of a Series G round and was valued back then at $36 billion.

Consumer-facing fintechs have seen a boost to their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people have been staying at home to avoid catching the virus and have increasingly been managing their finances online.

Carney, who headed the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada, had a 13-year career at Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc in its London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto offices.

He is the United Nations special envoy on climate action and finance.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)

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The potential of Open Finance and the digitisation of tax records

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The potential of Open Finance and the digitisation of tax records 2

By Sudesh Sud, Founder of APARI 

The world is undergoing huge changes at the moment. Between coronavirus pushing the economy to the limit and a group of Redditors challenging the financial market hegemony, people are questioning the role of established institutions. If finance doesn’t work to enable the economy, businesses or individuals, then who is it for?

Before the digital revolution, financial experts were seen as a necessity. They knew how things worked, what everything meant, could provide good advice and were employed to sit at the heart of the action. Now, trading can be done by anyone online through established platforms, with a wealth of information available to hand.

Yet, as the 2008 financial crisis proved, established financial institutions have made themselves too big to fail. Simply tearing down the existing financial system would leave many ordinary people, along with businesses and government treasuries, in ruin.

However, as legendary futurologist, Buckminster Fuller, once said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Traditional banking models are already being upended by technology. Through Open Banking, challenger banks are able to connect services digitally, cutting inefficiencies and costs while speeding up transactions. Now, Open Finance is seeking to build on this model to connect financial services via technology, potentially making the existing financial model obsolete.

Just as Open Banking led to greater democratisation of money, Open Finance has the potential to transfer power back to individuals. Not only would this benefit society as a whole, but it would help minimise the boom-bust cycles that cripple entire economies. No individual would be too big to fail, and bailing people out would cost far less, having minimal impact on the economy overall.

With more information available to them, Open Finance businesses will be able to use technology to make better decisions instantly. Many people struggle to get onto the housing ladder due to a poor credit score, for example, yet they have been paying rent every month of their adult lives. Why, then, can they not access mortgages? A company called Credit Ladder is addressing this through Open Banking, reporting rent payments via challenger banks like Starling to credit agencies, helping good renters to access mortgages.

While it is still very early days for Open Finance, there seems to be an endless raft of possibilities to benefit individuals, businesses and national economies. Faster, more secure, and less risky access to credit can help grow the economy, transforming finance from something that benefits a few wealthy capitalists to something that enables growth in the real economy.

So how else could Open Finance benefit society?

Using Tax Information

Every working adult pays income tax. Some of us via self-assessment while others are enrolled in PAYE. Regardless, we all have tax records with a wealth of financial information that has been verified, at least in part, by HMRC.

This centralised repository of financial information could be put to better use, such as allowing credit reference agencies to better understand an individual’s risk profile or helping to prove income as part of a mortgage application. Unfortunately, HMRC is a black hole of information ‒ its sheer size and power sucks information in, but nothing comes back out again.

However, by Making Tax Digital (MTD), HMRC are effectively allowing individuals to keep validated tax records on the software of their choice. Software providers may then be able to use this information to enable certain aspects of Open Finance. The information doesn’t need to be protected by HMRC, it is the individual’s choice and responsibility over how to use their own information.

As MTD software develops, we will see it connected to Open Banking, allowing self-assessed taxpayers to connect their business account directly to the software, effectively getting their tax return completed for them by an AI program. They would simply check the details, add any adjustments, and click submit. HMRC would then validate the records, providing assurance for any financial institutions using that financial information.

More Growth, Lower Risk

With access to complete and validated financial information, lenders would be able to more quickly and accurately assess individual risk when considering a loan or mortgage application. This would greatly speed up the process of applying for a loan, whether for a business venture or property purchase, for example.

Take residential landlords, for example. They may own a few properties already, with equity coming out of their ears. If that landlord wants to obtain another property, they would need to get their accountant to assemble their financial information, complete a SA302, and send everything off to their mortgage advisors who would then validate the information before submitting the mortgage application.

The application can then take months to approve, slowing down the process and potentially leading to missed opportunities. Since property sales usually occur in a chain (the owner of the property you are purchasing is usually purchasing another property, and so on), these inefficiencies slow the process down for everyone and can have major impacts.

If, however, mortgage applicants could simply share validated financial/tax records, mortgage providers could use that information to make quick decisions with reduced risk. What’s more, applicants could share only relevant, high-level information, rather than expose their entire financial history.

Individual Risk Management

Currently, individuals can manage their credit score/risk profile via third party providers like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. These credit reporting agencies use limited information, such as credit cards, store cards and loans to assess risk. Individuals need to understand what factors each agency uses in order to ‘game’ the system.

For example, someone who has always been careful with their money, kept to a strict budget and never taken out a loan or credit card will have a far worse credit rating than someone who regularly uses debt to finance their lifestyle. So, even though they may have amassed a good deal of savings, they cannot get a good deal on a loan or mortgage.

With Open Finance, these individuals would be able to quickly prove their earnings, spending, and savings, decreasing their risk profile in line with reality. Rather than crude measures of creditworthiness, financial institutions would be able to use accurate and validated information to make quick decisions based on realistic risk. This both transfers more power to individuals and contributes to faster growth while reducing overall risk.

As a centralised repository for validated financial information, MTD providers will be in a unique position to develop a two-sided marketplace for finance, allowing credit providers to match products to individuals’ risk profiles. When a customer needs a loan, credit card or mortgage, they can simply browse products for which they have already been approved, applying and receiving finance instantly.

Empowering PAYE Taxpayers

Currently, PAYE taxpayers have little, if any, visibility or control over their tax contributions. They will see the amount paid in tax and national insurance, but to claim any allowances requires them to submit a self-assessment tax return. For most PAYE taxpayers, this simply doesn’t seem worthwhile.

Yet, self-employed taxpayers can claim for things like travel to their place of work, a proportion of living expenses when working from home, even their lunch. These things are necessary for productive work yet, for PAYE taxpayers, come out of their already taxed income. Meanwhile, businesses tend to make use of every tax allowance available to them.

This imbalance could be rectified with Open Finance connected to tax software. As MTD becomes a validated system for self-assessed taxpayers, a new version could be developed for PAYE taxpayers, putting them in control of their tax and finances. Not only would they be able to benefit from Open Finance in the same way as self-assessed taxpayers, but they will also be able to claim for reasonable allowances. What’s more, HMRC/the Treasury/the government would be able to hold employers accountable for pay disparities and unreasonable tax avoidance.

Open Finance, then, has the power to speed up and reduce the cost of obtaining and providing finance. It would make the finance system fairer and most transparent while distributing financial power, and help to avoid the creation of too big to fail financial institutions and the boom-bust cycle that has become unfortunate features of modern capitalism.

Ultimately, Open Finance has the potential to help the UK and other nations recover from the seemingly unending series of crises that have plagued the early 21st century by allowing people to access finance quicker in order to grow their business and personal finances while reducing risk, inefficiencies, and costs.

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Three ways payment orchestration improves financial reconciliation

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Knowing the best alternative payment methods

By Brian Coburn, CEO or Bridge,

When Luca Pacioli, the 15th century Venetian monk, invented double-entry account keeping, managing financial reconciliations had its own unique challenges. The father of modern accounting didn’t have to deal with glitches in his book-keeping app but he did have to write with feather-based quills by candlelight. Five hundred years later the challenges are different but no less onerous.

As in the 15th century, solid financial reporting is at the heart of every successful high-transaction business. As Pacioli no doubt knew, up-to-date, well-documented accounting ensures good operational health and makes it easier to grow. And that’s never been more important.

While it might not be feather quills by moonlight, today’s environment of multiple customer channels can be time-consuming and labour intensive, with various payment methods and financial reconciliations from multiple data sources.

Understanding cash inflow through online transactions is a critical element of financial reporting. However, when these involve multiple payment processors and payment methods and a complex system of disjointed silos of payment data, this can become a cumbersome and arduous manual task.

Common issues in this fragmented payments landscape include working across different formats, managing different data owners and access as well as inconsistent process timings. The result is often increased inaccuracy and inefficiency. Procuring multiple tools and software can end up being uncost-effective and unwieldy. Though the current digital transformation is an exciting time for retailers, staying on top of the ever-changing payment options can be an overwhelming burden for many business owners.

Introducing payment orchestration presents a single, accessible, creative and accurate source of transactional data, crucial for today’s complex challenges around financial reconciliations.

Simplicity

Today, commerce is 24/7, so being able to access and analyse real-time information is vital to managing business controls. Many organisations have looked to automate these processes with account reconciliation software.

However, one key challenge is the sheer volume of transactions and the need to capture data from a variety of different sources. Payment orchestration enables transactions to be carried out by multiple payment processors and payment methods with simple and flexible plugins, centrally monitored and routed in the most optimum way.

It allows users to add or remove providers easily, knowing the complexity (detecting outages and automatically rerouting payments) is being handled by a trusted specialist partner via an intelligent platform.

Bringing disparate sources of online transaction data into one place simplifies how enterprises access and operate with multiple payment processors and payment methods. This makes it easier for businesses to remain agile.

Speed

For organisations that still depend on manual, spreadsheet driven processes, the mechanics of reconciliation can be extremely time consuming.

A payment orchestration layer creates the opportunity to automate processes and reduce manual intervention. By bringing multiple payment processors and payment methods into an integrated service layer with intelligent routing capabilities, the impact of individual outages or failed payments can be mitigated to ensure optimum payment success rates, saving crucial revenue.

Accuracy

Naturally, significant manual work brings with it the added risk of human error. The speed with which business moves today demands accurate accounting processes. Checking for error takes up valuable time that could be spent focusing on business growth.

Payment orchestration can improve accuracy and reduce the opportunity for error. Providing a holistic and central source of real-time transactional data, payment orchestration can offer improved transparency and greater visibility of financial data.

With all transactional data captured in one source, payment orchestration can present a data source to feed other applications – such as automated reconciliation tools and fraud management – automating business processes in a seamless way across the enterprise. Good practice like this will, of course, enable a consistent approach to fraud management across all channels and payment services.

Multiple payment choices can be onerous but, today, not adopting them at all is unwise. The key to success, and good financial reconciliation, is being able to streamline and manage them.

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