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Maharashtra: SGST employees fume over delay in restructuring

Updated on: 29 October,2023 08:41 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dharmendra Jore |

The existing manpower allows them to verify only one per cent of tax returns

Maharashtra: SGST employees fume over delay in restructuring

SGST employees gathered to discuss their next move on Saturday

Employees of the State Goods and Services Tax  (SGST) Department are up in arms against the state government for delaying the restructuring of the department, as they say this is hampering revenue collection for at least six years. Employee associations have sent out a call, asking their members to protest from Monday if the government doesn’t recede ground.

As of now, SGST amounts for 70 per cent of the state’s total yearly revenue collection. The same department was earlier known as the Sales Tax Department before being renamed to Value Added Tax (VAT) department. Even back then, it collected the highest share for the state’s coffers. Ever since the GST regime was introduced in 2017, the State and Centre have been working together, sharing the revenue equally.

However, despite a massive increase in the number of taxpayers in the GST regime, the state government did not restructure its system, especially in view of a skewed ratio of the number of taxpayers assigned to the tax cadre employees, including officers and supporting staff whose primary responsibility is to verify tax returns for correctness. The assessment and audit help in increasing the tax collection further. 

“Earlier, the department had five to six lakh taxpayers. Now, this has gone up to 11 lakh. But the current workload allows the department to verify only one per cent of the total returns filed. The rest are accepted as correct because we don’t have the manpower to work on them,” Nishant Yellurwar, joint secretary of the Maharashtra GST Gazetted Officers’ Association, told mid-day on Saturday.

Data available states that currently, there are 9,880 employees in the tax cadre, an increase of only 40 since Financial Year 2017-18, during which the collection was R1,15,940 crore. In FY 2022-23, the number of taxpayers witnessed an 82.31 per cent growth, with revenue rising by 36.39 per cent and standing at R2,26,933 crore. Interestingly, in FY 2011-12, the tax cadre manpower was pegged at 10,034, higher than the existing strength. Then, the number of taxpayers was at R6.48 lakh and revenue collection stood at Rs 56,591 crore.

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“Consider a scenario where we have a cadre strength to be able to assess and audit at least 10 to 20 per cent cases annually, and increase the state’s GST collection manifold,” said Yellurwar, adding that the Centre had restructured its department twice since introduction of GST and seen the positive outcome.

According to Ajit Bhosale, convener of a joint action group of SGST officers, employee associations and unions, the state government had been ignoring the demand for restructuring for the last six years. 

“SGST is the backbone of the state finances. Yet, our pleas and submissions have not yielded any response. As per a 2011 Government Resolution, the restructuring is mandatory after a certain number of years. Here, the number of employees and officers in the tax cadre have reduced whereas the number of taxpayers has increased manifold,” he said.

The joint action committee had submitted a restructuring plan to the finance minister and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, and sought further meetings with him, but in vain. Consequently, the employees will resort to a non-cooperation agitation from Monday and may intensify it further, said Bhosale.

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