The government on Monday allowed businesses with no tax liability to file their tax returns through a text message and rolled out faceless customs clearance of shipments at Bengaluru and Chennai to make life easier for businesses.
The new procedure called ‘turant customs’ seeks to offer quick clearance of imports after a remote and faceless assessment by officials located outside the port of import. This will make the process paperless and eliminate the physical interface between importers and officials as well any discretion involved.
“Now, the goods imported at Chennai may be assessed by the customs officers located at Bengaluru and vice versa, as assigned by the automated system," said a statement from the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC). The tax body said that faceless clearance of shipments at customs offices will be extended to the entire nation by end of the year.
This would benefit importers by eliminating routine interface with the officials and make assessment uniform. “This would reduce transaction costs and eliminate the practice of port shopping for favourable assessments," CBIC stated.
CBIC had in April rolled out a series of steps to replace electronic documentation with physical ones for clearing imported goods. These are part of simplifying customs procedures, often flagged by the World Bank as an area needing reforms to improve the country's ease of doing business ranking.
The finance ministry also said in a separate statement on Tuesday that over 2.2 million registered Goods and Services Tax (GST) payers will benefit from the option of filing monthly summary returns through short messaging service (SMS). The option was announced early in May. There is no need for those without tax liability to log on to the tax filing portal run by GSTN, the company that processes returns.
The status of the returns filed by way of a text message can be tracked on the GST portal, said the statement. CBIC had last month amended the Central GST rules of 2017 to allow SMS filing of ‘nil’ returns. These have to be filed using the registered mobile number of the tax payer and it will be verified by a one-time password. The ‘nil’ return has to be sent to the number 14409.