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Migration migraines… Welcome to India’s GST

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India has a reputation as being a place where some things take “foreeeever” to accomplish. Whereas others happen so fast, no one is prepared! Such as the sudden overnight demonetization of Rs 500 & 1,000 notes.

Or the “GST migration” taking place all over the country.

In the last two weeks I’ve been inundated by emails, pro-active phone calls begging and pleading me to migrate my Service Tax number before the “deadline” of 31st March 2017.

But guess what?

The initial “deadline” was completely impossible to achieve. To migrate one assessee took several hours of painstaking mind numbing effort online, repeatedly trying and testing to see if this photo would upload or that one… In short, the government servers and systems are so slow and archaic or so poorly designed it was simply not possible!

Welcome to digital India!!

And the real kicker to all of this?

As of close of business on Wednesday, 29th March 2017, the status of India’s “brave new tax reforms” was stuck at the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) which had raised objections regarding the GST bills which then went to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament).

Meaning an entire country’s machinery was being activated even before it was passed by Parliament or became law!!

And the latest greatest twist to this story? An invitation to a “GST Mela”!!

Now a mela in India is a fair – something fun! A great big gathering, often community celebrations but… for taxes?? Seriously taxes??

Naturally the invite:

  • Doesn’t say where this mythical event will take
  • Only dates not timings (being government it is assumed everyone knows only between 10:00am to 2:00pm and maybe possibly again between 3:00pm – 5:00pm)
  • Sent from a hastily created Gmail ID
  • Released the email IDs and names of 382 other fellow Assessees!!!

I’m not kidding. Seriously. This is a bonafide tax office initiative.

So I wrote back asking where, when and what the heck is up with releasing my email ID to scads of other folks stuck in this hapless situation of ‘migration’?

Amazingly within less than a minute, I received an email reply providing the details, assurances this is a legitimate request to help assessees.

Even more remarkably, it was followed up seconds later with a phone call. From a young man speaking in English helping clarify and sincerely requesting I complete my migration – either in person or by sending my assistant (naturally he assumed I have one!).

And when I asked what is needed:

  • Only your mobile number and email ID…
  • Um… that doesn’t sound right. Anything else?
    • Maybe your Adhaar and PAN number…?
  • But I don’t have an Adhaar (India’s controversial universal ID card)
    • Oh ok. No problem…
  • What about the photo and address proof as required on the website?
    • Nope not needed!

Umm…. really? Somehow I don’t think this is correct.

On disclosing everyone’s email IDs, he apologized that they hadn’t thought about tax payer confidentiality and shared they are under “too much pressure!” to get 100% compliance.

Obviously he couldn’t actually say if my migration was outstanding or not.

That would be too simple.

Moral of the story?

Living in India Tip #3

Never underestimate the speed things can happen… or change… or that if you just dig a bit further they may be alternate arrangements for the back-up arrangements. It may not initially make sense but you will get there in the end!

PS – I finally did get my GST migration sorted, to then be unable to file as it was impossible to access outside of India. I raised a ‘ticket’ to get help… and received a response 22 Dec 2017… a mere 3 months after raising… and having to pay interest through no fault of my own! Sigh…

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  1. Arrrrrgh! Are you tearing your hair out yet?

  2. Bama says:

    Wow, that sounds really chaotic! Indonesian tax bureaucracy seems tame in comparison.

  3. TheLastWord says:

    I’m completely not surprised. I recently tried to file for an “e-visa” to visit India. Naturally the form didn’t specify at the start what you should keep handy. And so the long day wore on.

    I made multiple trips up to my bedroom ( from my basement office that’s 2 floors up ) to get my last Indian visa ( in my now expired passport ) – they wanted a number, but the sticky had no number on it and my Canadian Citizenship #

    Then came the business of uploading the photo. I actually went and got a visa pic taken, then scanned it and fought with the cropping and sizing. Got it done at the 7th attempt.

    Entered details of my fathers, name, place of birth, date of birth ( I made stuff up about place of birth, making sure he was born on this side of the border and not in current day Pakistan )

    Then same for my mother, including maiden name and place of birth, which I had to invent.

    Then I had to manually write down the confirmation number….

    3.5 hours later I was ready to pay the visa fees.

    Chose SBI e-pay.

    Selected Visa card. Entered all the info they asked for including the 3 digit verification code at the back of the card. Hit submit.

    Was presented with a blank screen.

    I searched all through the website for an option to “Pay for your visa – click here” expecting to see a form where I could enter my Application number and be prompted to pay. No such luck.

    I didn’t go to India.

    • What a tale!!!

      Though truth be told we are going through the Canadian visa application process for my partner’s 86 year old mother. It isn’t the easiest and led to some quite hilarious sleuthing with the extended family to find out when her parents were born (and died), dates of birth (and death) of all 10 siblings, address of all living siblings, marital status, defaulting to ‘retired’ as occupation… Compiling all past international travel details… Proof of sufficient financial means… Invitation letter… Photo had to exactly meet certain requirements too….

      The online process for Canada isn’t impossible but certainly does require a bunch of detailed attachments to be strictly filled in their format then scanned together as single documents for each of the relevant sections.

      We spent about 3-4 days to complete.

      And still don’t know if her visa is successful… if it is we then need to go through the whole process for an American visa as her ticket is routed via the US…

      Wish us luck!

      And sorry you didn’t get to India this attempt. Hope it won’t be your only attempt!!



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