The e-way bill would add to industry’s compliance burden and worked against the concept of the goods and services tax (GST), even as the government exempted items of mass consumption and jewellery, among other articles, from its ambit, according to experts.
They also did not like the idea of GST commissioners, or officials authorised by them, intercepting vehicles.
Every registered agency must furnish information on the GST Network related to the movement of goods worth over Rs 50,000 if carried by motor vehicles beyond 10 km. The purpose is to track movement of goods and allow the authorities to inspect them on suspicion of tax evasion.
To generate an e-way bill, a supplier or transporter will have to upload details to the GSTN portal, following which a unique e-way bill number will be made available to the supplier, the recipient and the transporter. In case a supplier is unregistered, the buyer has to generate the bill.
According to a notification issued on Wednesday by the Central Board of Excise and Customs, items of mass consumption such as grain, vegetables and bread as well as jewellery, stamp paper, khadi, cheques, puja articles, LPG, kerosene and currency have been exempted.
Also exempted are goods transported from a port, airport, air cargo complex and land customs station to an inland container depot or a container freight station for clearance by Customs.
However, the bill is needed if goods are transferred from one vehicle to another. If there are multiple consignments, a consolidated e-way bill can be generated.
The e-way bill number will be valid for one to 15 days — one day for distances up to 100 km and 15 days for distances of more than 1,000 km.
“This is a pretty draconian step,” said M S Mani, senior director, indirect tax of Deloitte. He added the bill worked against the concept of seamless movement of goods under the GST.
Experts also said the timeframe for transporting goods should be left to the transporter or supplier. “The government should be concerned only about taxes,” an expert added.
Amit Sarkar of consultancy firm BDO India, wondered why an e-way bill was needed when there was a system of input-output matching under the GST. He said if an e-commerce entity despatched a mobile handset beyond 10 km it would have to generate the bill.
Sarkar added if at all e-way bills were needed, vegetables and perishable food should not be exempted so that wastage could be tracked. From a policing perspective, jewellery should also not be excluded in order to track unaccounted money, another expert pointed out.