For those following the ongoing tax control reform in India, 2019 has been a very eventful year for Indian e-invoicing. Starting last spring, a group of government and public administration bodies have convened regularly with the mission of proposing a new way of controlling GST compliance through the introduction of mandatory e-invoicing. Given the vast impact such a reform would have on not just the Indian but the global economy, these discussions, often carried out behind closed doors, have triggered a large number of rumours, sometimes leading to misinformation on the market.
Navigating the information deficit
So far, not much information of a formal or binding nature has been published or made available to the public. After the public consultation held earlier this autumn, a high-level whitepaper describing the envisaged e-invoicing process was published; however, since then nothing formal or binding has been released. A recent media note made available by the relevant authorities to the press indicated that the timeline envisaged by the government for the roll-out would be:
1 January 2020: voluntary for businesses with a turnover of Rs.500 Crore or more;
1 February 2020: voluntary for businesses with turnover of Rs.100 Crore or more;
1 April 2020: mandatory for both of the above categories and voluntary for businesses with a turnover of less than Rs. 100 Crore.
While the clarity was welcomed, this timeline was not yet binding, and as a result, taxpayers were left with little information on how to meet the requirements of the tax control reform, and no binding indication of when they need to comply. However, this situation is now currently being remedied, and we are seeing the first codification into law.
The first pieces of legislation make an entrance
On December 13, 2019, a set of Notifications (No. 67-72/2019) introducing amendments to the existing GST legislation framework were released and are currently awaiting publication in the Gazette of India. In a nutshell, these Notifications:
- Introduce the principle that an invoice is only considered as valid if it contains an Invoice Reference Number (IRN), and failing to issue it according to the envisaged process means that it cannot be considered as an invoice;
- Formalise the first mandatory part of the roll-out plan: introducing the obligation to comply with these requirements by 1 April 2020 for companies with a turnover of Rs.100 Crore or more;
- Introduce an obligation for businesses with a turnover of Rs.500 Crore or more to include a QR code on B2C invoices as of 1 April 2020.
These Notifications issued on December 13 will be the first of many pieces of documentation that are needed to formally clarify the details of the upcoming e-invoicing reform. More important still, they serve as a clear indication that the relevant Indian authorities are nearing the end of what has been an analytical and consultative design period, and that they now instead are transitioning into a period of preparation for the first roll-out.
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