Incentivising the consumer for GST compliance

Mera Bill, Mera Adhikar  is an incentive scheme which seeks to trigger a behavioral change in the consumers for demanding an invoice from the supplier of goods and services as a right and entitlement. It was launched in September 2023, on a pilot basis by Union government in collaboration with the states of Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, and the UTs of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, and Puducherry for a period of one year. The incentives to consumers are attractive in the form of two bumper draws of `1 crore (quarterly), 10 monthly draws of `10 lakh and 800 monthly draws of `10,000.

Mobile app (available on Google play store/App store) and web (web.merabill.gst.gov.in) based participation in the scheme is made very simple. A one-time registration on the app/web is required on the basis of mobile number of the person. Post registration, any resident of India can upload the valid tax invoices (B2C only) of minimum value of `200 on the app/web. Such invoices should be issued by any supplier registered in any of the following states/UTs only: Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, and Puducherry. In simple terms, only those invoices will be eligible in the draw whose suppliers’ GSTIN number starts with digits 18 (Assam) or 24 (Gujrat) or 06 (Haryana) or 34 (Puducherry) or 26 (UTs of Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu). Therefore, the invoices issued by any registered supplier belong to state other than the above mentioned states would not be eligible for the draw of prize.

 The valid invoices issued by the supplier registered in any of the above mentioned states/UTs during a month (say, September) must be uploaded by the consumer on the mobile app/web by the fifth day of the following month (October 5). However, a maximum 25 invoices can be uploaded by a person in a single month. At the time of uploading the invoice, the mobile app will automatically capture the information and autofill the required fields; however, the participants would be required to cross verify the correctness of auto-populated fields such as GSTIN of supplier, invoice number, value and date, tax amount involved, mode of payment used for that particular invoice, i.e., cash or e-payment, state of the recipient, etc. On uploading the invoice, a unique acknowledgement reference number (ARN) will be generated, which would be used for draw of prizes subject to certain conditions.

After the announcement of winner, the winning persons would be informed and may be required to upload additional details like PAN number(to deduct applicable TDS), Aadhaar number, Bank account details, etc, through the app/web, within a certain period for enabling transfer of the winning prize money.

Participation in the scheme is laden with multiple benefits for the consumers as it provides the opportunity to become compliance agents for the government and contribute to nation-building. Other than this, the app/web would act as a repository of an invoice for future references in the form of safety Kavach as, without an invoice, the consumers cannot protect their rights in case of any fraud or claim guarantee/warranty for the product or any action in the case of any health/security hazard.

In many cases, when the customer demands invoice, he/she may be motivated by the seller to not to ask for the invoice in return of sharing a part of tax saved amount or just by creating a perception about the money (tax) potentially saved if tax invoice is not issued. However, such unrecorded transactions adversely impact consumer interest and safety in the long run, besides being hazardous to tax administration. The nature of the business among B2C transactions in GST remains similar to the erstwhile tax regime. The fact that the final consumer does not actually need invoice due to no ITC availability to him/her makes the situation more challenging for the formal economy.

Therefore, in case of B2C transactions, chances of suppression and consequent evasion of tax by the supplier are very high, as even if the invoice is issued, but is not reported, it becomes practically impossible to track it. Such B2C supplies have been challenging for the tax administration across the globe, including in India, as these are easy to suppress. This justifies the launch of MBMA to educate the consumer coupled with handsome incentives.To promote B2C compliance, similar prize schemes have been operated in India by state governments of Kerala (‘Lucky Bill’ scheme since August 2022) and Delhi (Bill Banao Inaam Pao” in the VAT era). Punjab has also recently launched similar scheme (Bill liao, inaam pao).   Such reward schemes have also been introduced by a number of countries, such as Taiwan in 1951, Malta in 1997, Slovakia in 2013, Georgia in 2010, Portugal in 2014, etc.

During the implementation of the scheme, there may be some challenges, e.g., uploading of ineligible invoices, verification of actual owner of winning invoice, technical glitches, disbursement of prize money on time, etc, which would be sorted out by the implementing agency for sure.So far, more than one million app-downloads have been recorded with lakhs of invoices already uploaded. More and more people will take advantage of this scheme and through these initiatives, over a period of time, the culture of ‘asking for a bill’ would be developed among the general population, which would make them a proud  contributor and partner in nation-building. On successful outcome of this pilot, MBMA could be launched at the national level with perhaps a larger prize pool.

Financial Express