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How to File GST for Small Business in India

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The Goods and Services Tax (GST), introduced in India on July 1, 2017, is a comprehensive indirect tax levied on the manufacture, sale, and consumption of goods and services across the country. It replaced multiple taxes previously levied by the central and state governments, including VAT, service tax, and excise duty. GST is classified into three types: Central GST (CGST), State GST (SGST), and Integrated GST (IGST). CGST and SGST apply to intra-state transactions, while IGST applies to inter-state transactions and imports. For small businesses, understanding GST is essential as it simplifies the tax structure, reduces the tax burden, and ensures compliance with national standards.

 

Accurate and timely filing of GST returns is crucial for small businesses to avoid penalties, maintain good standing with tax authorities, and ensure seamless operations. Non-compliance can lead to hefty fines, interest on unpaid taxes, and potential legal issues, which can severely impact a small business’s financial health.

 

5 Benefits of GST for small business

 

GST offers several significant benefits for small businesses:

 

Simplified taxation system:

Before GST, businesses had to comply with a complex web of state and central taxes, leading to administrative burdens and higher costs. GST consolidates these into a single tax regime, making compliance easier and reducing the overall tax burden.

 

Improved compliance:

The GST framework is designed to encourage transparency and accountability. Businesses must maintain detailed records of all transactions, which fosters a culture of compliance and reduces the risk of tax evasion.

 

Input tax credit:

One of the most beneficial features of GST is the availability of input tax credit, which allows businesses to deduct the tax paid on purchases from the tax payable on sales. This reduces the overall tax liability and lowers the cost of goods and services.

 

Competitive pricing:

By eliminating the cascading effect of taxes (tax on tax), GST lowers the cost of production and services. This allows small businesses to price their products more competitively, making them more attractive to consumers.

 

Enhanced logistics efficiency:

GST has removed state-specific barriers to trade, such as entry taxes and check posts. This has streamlined logistics and reduced transportation time and costs, benefiting businesses that rely on the movement of goods across state borders.

 

Preparation before filing

 

Preparation is key to smooth GST filing. Here are the steps small businesses should take:

 

Registration verification:

 

Ensure GST registration:

Verify that your business is registered under GST and has a valid GSTIN (Goods and Services Tax Identification Number). Without a valid GSTIN, you cannot file returns or claim input tax credits.

 

Check registration details:

Ensure that all your registration details, such as business name, address, and contact information, are accurate and up-to-date. Any discrepancies can lead to issues during filing and potential non-compliance penalties.

 

Record keeping:

 

Maintain detailed records:

Keep meticulous records of all sales, purchases, and expenses. This includes invoices, receipts, purchase orders, and financial statements. Proper record-keeping ensures that you can provide accurate information when filing returns and supports compliance in case of audits.

 

Organize documents:

Organize your documents systematically. Use digital tools or accounting software to keep track of transactions and generate reports easily. This helps you quickly retrieve information during the filing process and audits.

 

How to file GST for small business – steps to file GST returns?

 

Here are the steps to file GST returns for small businesses:

 

Login to GST portal:

Access the GST portal (www.gst.gov.in) and log in using your credentials.

 

Select return filing period:

Choose the appropriate return filing period for which you need to file the return.

 

Prepare GSTR-1:

 

  • Sales details: Enter details of all outward supplies made during the period in GSTR-1.
  • Invoices upload: Upload sales invoices to the portal.

 

Prepare GSTR-2A (Auto-Populated):

GSTR-2A is auto-populated based on the GSTR-1 filed by your suppliers. Verify the details.

 

Prepare GSTR-3B:

 

  • Summary return: Fill in the summary return of all transactions, including sales, purchases, and input tax credit claimed.
  • Tax payment: Calculate and pay the due tax.

 

File GSTR-3B:

Submit the GSTR-3B return and complete the filing process by using the authorized electronic signature (DSC or EVC).

 

Reconcile and match:

Ensure that the details in GSTR-3B match with GSTR-1 and GSTR-2A to avoid discrepancies.

 

Post-Filing compliance

 

After filing the GST returns, small businesses should:

 

Stay compliant:

Regularly update and comply with GST rules and regulations to avoid penalties.

 

Maintain records:

Keep organized records of all filed returns, invoices, and payments for potential GST audits.

 

Periodic reconciliation:

Periodically reconcile your GST returns with your books of accounts to ensure accuracy.

 

Seeking professional assistance

 

Filing GST for small business owners can be complex, especially for those unfamiliar with the system. Seeking professional assistance can be beneficial:

 

Consult a GST practitioner:

A certified GST practitioner can provide expert guidance and ensure accurate filing. They are well-versed with the latest GST rules and can help you navigate complex issues.

 

Hire an accountant:

Professional accountants can manage your records, prepare returns, and offer valuable advice on GST compliance. They can also assist with financial planning and ensure that your business is financially healthy.

 

Use Case: Priya’s GST filing experience

 

Priya runs a small retail business and is filing her GST return for the first time. She gathers all her sales and purchase records but encounters difficulties while entering data on the GST portal due to unfamiliarity with the system. Priya decides to consult a GST practitioner who helps her navigate the process, ensuring accurate data entry and timely filing. This not only saves Priya time and effort but also ensures compliance with GST regulations.

 

Conclusion

 

Understanding how to file GST for small businesses is crucial for maintaining regulatory compliance and optimizing financial management. By following the outlined steps and seeking professional assistance when needed, small business owners can ensure accurate and timely GST filings, ultimately benefiting from the simplified tax regime and improved cash flow management. Integrating these practices into regular business operations will position small businesses for growth and success in a competitive market.

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