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May 20, 2024

GST Department to Develop Registration System for Shared E-commerce Warehouses

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) authorities are actively working on a mechanism to address the complexities of taxation and registration for shared warehouses utilized by e-commerce companies. These shared warehouses, where multiple suppliers store their goods for last-mile delivery, have raised unique challenges under the GST framework.

Taxation and Registration Challenges

The primary issue stems from multiple suppliers geo-tagging the same warehouse as their ‘additional place of business’ under GST rules. An official from the GST department explained that when several taxpayers register at a single warehouse, the identical geo-tagged address raises red flags for tax officers, potentially signaling fraudulent activities.

To mitigate these concerns, the GST authorities are exploring whether the concept of ‘shared workplaces’ or ‘coworking spaces’ could be applied to these warehouses. This approach would allow for a more flexible and accurate representation of multiple suppliers using a single warehouse without raising undue suspicion.

Implications for E-commerce and Suppliers

Under the current GST laws, suppliers to an e-commerce platform can store their goods at a common warehouse, but they must declare this warehouse as an additional place of business in their GST registration. The problem arises when the same warehouse is registered by multiple suppliers, creating a scenario where the tax officers might attribute any compliance issues of one supplier to all others using the facility. Furthermore, there’s a risk that e-commerce operators might be held accountable for the defaults of individual suppliers, potentially impacting their business operations.

Ongoing Discussions and Proposed Solutions

This issue was a key topic during a recent meeting between Central and state GST officers. The idea of implementing a shared workplace model for e-commerce warehouses is under consideration and will be discussed further by the GST law committee before being presented to the GST Council for approval. This committee includes officers from both central and state tax departments.

Rajat Mohan, Executive Director at Moore Singhi, highlighted the need for a tailored approach to handle shared warehouses. He pointed out that the evolution of e-commerce has led to the establishment of shared warehouses hosting thousands of suppliers, necessitating a robust registration and compliance mechanism.

Geo-tagging and Compliance

The GST authorities have recently mandated geo-tagging for all registered premises, enabling tax officers to precisely locate registered taxpayers. However, this has led to challenges when multiple taxpayers list the same address, resulting in heightened scrutiny for both the suppliers and the warehouse operators.

To address these challenges, Mohan suggests that the GST system should include a distinct identification process for warehouses. This would prevent the conflation of tax compliance issues of individual suppliers with those of the warehouse itself. By refining the tax system to distinguish between warehouses and individual taxpayers, tax officers can conduct more accurate risk assessments and reduce unnecessary harassment.

Future Steps

As the GST authorities continue to refine their approach, the goal is to create a system that allows for the efficient and accurate registration of shared warehouses without compromising tax compliance. This will involve developing mechanisms that clearly differentiate between the various entities operating within a shared warehouse space, ensuring that each supplier is assessed individually.

The implementation of such a system would mark a significant step forward in accommodating the unique needs of the e-commerce sector, fostering a more conducive environment for businesses to thrive while maintaining strict compliance with GST regulations

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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