How will implementation of GST affect the demand of Chartered Accountants?

GST will be a boon to CAs. But, it’ll be less complex than other indirect taxes combined. I know it sounds contradicting, but here are my reasons:

  1. Implementation — this process will be the first that needs to be done. It means that the companies will have to change their existing IT systems in line with the GST. This will initially be a little problematic for the industry, but in the long run its very helpful. CA will charge for it.
  2. Change in strategies — GST coming to force means that the industry will have to make changes in their tax planning for GST, their costings, sale price and distribution strategy. Again, CA will charge fees for it.
  3. Regular compliances — there’ll be lots of details that the businesses needs to give to the Government at the time of filing of return. For this work, CA will charge fees.
  4. Audit, scrutiny and appeals — this is applicable even today for other indirect taxes, so just an additional point.

Its definitely a boon for the CA who has basic knowledge of Cenvat Credit Rules and Valuation of the Goods (mostly excise laws), those who don’t remember these rules well can surely start learning and capitalise on this opportunity.

However, the biggest benefit that a practising CA can see, is that there’ll be a major increase in the tax base. It means many assessees who were previously registered in Composition Scheme or paid only VAT or not paid any indirect taxes at all, will go to the CA for this work. Through this, the CA can not only get the GST related work but also the regular accounts and compliances work.

Having said that, GST will be beneficial for the economy and it’ll lighten the burden on the businesses. However, whether the benefits of GST would be passed to the end consumers or not, that is a point that we’ll have to wait and watch.

Definitely it increases the scope of specialists,

Many tax firms, including big-ticket accounting and consultancy majors, both international and Indian, are looking at making the most of the opportunity that the process of switching to a new tax regime throws up. “Demand for GST specialists is going to outstrip supply. All the major accounting and tax advisory firms, combined, may not be able to serve the market,” says Uday Pimprikar, tax partner, EY. Most consultancy firms are looking at ramping up the headcount of indirect tax experts and re-deploying existing talent into GST practice after an in-house training. For instance, EY, at present, has 150–200 tax and functional experts work on GST-related assignments. Pimprikar expects this number to magnify three-four times over the next 12 to 18 months.

KPMG in India is giving training to its 400-strong indirect tax team to deal with all aspects of GST, says Sachin Menon, the firm’s national head of indirect tax. Earlier this year, it had set up a project management office, comprising sector experts and practice leaders, to coordinate any GST transformation project for a customer.

Another tax firm, BDO India, is looking at doubling the headcount in its indirect tax practice to 100-odd in the coming months. It plans to bring in a slew of international experts to the country to engage with clients and sensitise them of the issues faced by companies in other countries that have introduced GST, says Prashant Raizada, partner (indirect tax) BDO India.

According to Mahure, the next few years will provide enormous opportunities for GST professionals. “Unlearning the past indirect tax concepts holds the key to learning new GST concepts,” is his advice to professionals who want to make a mark in this space.

Stepping up

Many industry bodies and chambers are looking at stepping up their outreach programme to sensitise industry on issues around GST. “We plan to expand our online platform to reach out to more industry professionals,” says V Gopalakrishnan, counsellor with CII Institute of Logistics, which has organised around 35 training sessions across the country in the past year.

The All India Federation of Tax Practitioners will hold a special session on GST for its members in October at Varanasi. “It is important for us to sensitise our members, especially in small towns and cities, about the opportunity that GST will offer,” says Mukul Gupta, chairman of the committee on GST, at the federation. Clearly, for GST practitioners, acche din are around the corner.

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