Economic activities barring a few essential services had come to a standstill in the country for the period nationwide lockdown was imposed in the wake of the novel coronavirus. As a result, the Indian economy witnessed its worst-ever decline/contraction in GDP close to 24% for the first quarter of the financial year.
There is no denial of the fact that COVID pandemic was a difficult time for everyone including the Government.
Considering the hardships being faced by taxpayers and professionals due to lockdown and pandemic, Government took decisions proactively and granted extensions in the due dates for furnishing returns, waiver/capping of late fees, reduction of the interest rate for a certain period of time, etc. The government was not hesitant about foregoing the collection that comes through late fees or interest for a certain period of time as notified.
Not being a spokesperson for Government but if you look back in past, then Government has time and again granted the extension in the due dates for furnishing the returns, provided relaxation is the payment of late fees and reduction in interest rates under the GST regime.
Though numerous changes in forms or new forms altogether, technical glitches on the GSTN portal and certain last-minute extensions/relaxation have always been a matter of concern and have resulted in hardships for taxpayers. (For e.g Due dates of GST Annual Return & GST Audit were extended by one month just before 6 hours of the deadline)
Once again, the small taxpayers/MSMEs have been pleading to the Government and Ministry of Finance to provide them an opportunity to furnish the pending GST returns with the waiver of late fees or capping of late fees. You will come across such representations being made on various social media handles, that the GST amnesty scheme is the need of time for the revival of MSMEs and small taxpayers.
Under the guise of brouhaha on social media, a petition was filed by a trader ‘Satyakam Arya’ based in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh to grant relief of late fees and give more time to small taxpayers to furnish their returns.
Supreme Court dismisses/rejects the plea
On 4th March 2021, Supreme Court had rejected the plea stating that it is not a matter of right or infringement of right where the Supreme Court can intervene. At this juncture, it will not be justifiable for Supreme Court to issue any directives for extension of the GST amnesty scheme to the Finance Ministry. As such it is a policy-related decision and it is exclusively under the domain/decision of the Government. One must note the relaxation or extensions provided by Government so far have been exclusively the decisions of the Government and not on the directives issued by the Supreme Court.
Just in case if Government & Ministry of Finance is considering any such GST amnesty scheme, then on behalf of honest taxpayers, I would like to urge with folded hands that honest taxpayers should be refunded the late fees already collected.