The deadline for claiming Input Tax Credit (ITC) benefit for the period of July 2017 to March 18 has been extended by five days as the Ministry of Finance allowed businesses to file summary sales returns GSTR-3B for September until October 25.
In statement issued on Sunday, a day after the earlier deadline expired, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), under the finance ministry, said, "Trade and industry had expressed apprehension relating to October 20 due date for claiming ITC under GST for July 2017-March 2018."
"The extension of the date implies that the last date for availing of ITC for the period July 2017 to March 2018 also gets extended up to October 25, 2018," it said.
Businesses expressed concerns over the flip-flop. On Thursday, it had reaffirmed the October 20 deadline, saying since ITC was being availed on the basis of summary sales returns filed, the deadline had been set at October 20.
While the extension of five days would provide some breather to the industry players struggling to avail the FY17-18 GST credits by October 20, it does not help those who filed their returns on time.
"Everyone should have put everyone on an equal footing," said Prashanth Agarwal, a corporate tax consultant at PwC India.
"Those who complied with the deadline should have been given opportunity to refile their returns. A lot of them filed under deadline pressure and might have made mistakes to their disadvantage," Agarwal said.
Trade bodies said that since it is the first year of GST implementation, there are a lot of challenges. The unified tax regime was rolled out starting July 1, 2017.
"While the businesses who could not file returns by October 20 can avail of the extension, this doesn't really help most large companies, who would have already filed their returns by working overtime," said Pratik Jain, a partner and leader at PwC India.
"Since there is no facility for amendment of the return, these companies cannot claim the credit which they might have missed. To provide relief to industry, the government should at least extend the due date till November 20 so that credit can be claimed in October return. This is extremely critical as the amount of credit at stake is huge in many cases," he added.
AMRG & Associates partner Rajat Mohan said the date extension comes as a shock for compliant taxpayers, whereas it would be a bonanza for late filers, non-filers and tax evaders.
Many trade and industry bodies as well as the Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAI) had demanded extension of the deadline.
The ministry further said that for those taxpayers who have recently migrated from erstwhile tax regime to GST, the last date for availing ITC for July 2017-March 2018 is December 31, 2018, or the date of filing of annual returns, whichever is earlier," the statement said.