E-way bill stands for Electronic way bill. E-way bill system under new tax regime i.e. Goods and Services Tax (GST) came into effect in April 2018. It was brought in as an anti-evasion measure in bulk consignment transports. It is an electronic waybill which is required to be carried out by a transporter of consignments for the movement of goods and is aimed at tracking the movement of goods under the GST framework.
Why was it necessary to bring in E-Way Bill?
E-way bill is not a novel concept; it was existent in the VAT regime as well. It was prevalent in most states under the erstwhile VAT regime in the name of road permit, waybill, etc. It was used to monitor the movement of goods to/from a state in order to check tax evasion. A waybill is typically required to accompany goods on their movement from consignor to consignee. Earlier, these way bills were subject to state-specific rules and were generated through different state-specific portals. This practice in-turn established a market dominated by middlemen creating a parallel economy, defrauding the government, which further hindered the seamless flow of goods, transportation costs escalated leading to wasting of government resources. This made it necessary for the policymakers to formulate a system, devoid of the idea of bureaucratic hurdles, aiming to check rampant corruption and create a uniform set of rules applicable throughout the country, under GST regime.
When is it Mandatory to generate an E-Way Bill?
E-way bill is mandatory for interstate movement of goods where the value of goods exceeds Rs. 50,000 in motorized conveyance. The transportation of goods through a non-motor vehicle is exempted from the E-Way bill system. The GST taxpayers can register themselves by using GST identification number, also known as GSTIN. Once an E-way bill is generated, a unique E-way Bill Number (EBN) is allocated to which is available to the supplier, recipient and the transporter. E-way bill has replaced the way bill which was a physical document and existed during the VAT regime for the movement of goods.
E-way bill be generated when there is interstate movement of goods and the value of goods exceeds Rs. 50,000 in motorized conveyance. The movement can either be:-
- In relation to 'supply'
- For reasons other than a 'supply'
- The 'supply' of goods is inward from an unregistered person
For the movement of goods, the supply may be either of the following:-
- The supply is in the course of business and is made for consideration
- The supply made for consideration which may not be in the course of business
- A supply without consideration
Therefore, E-way bill must be generated for all these types of movements. However, there is movement of specific goods for which e-way bill is mandatory even if the value of the consignment of goods is less than Rs. 50,000. These movements include:-
- Inter-state transport of handicraft goods by a dealer exempted from GST registration.
- Inter-state movement of goods to the worker by the principal/registered job worker.
How is E-Way Bill Generated?
This document can be generated on a government portal ewaybillgst.gov.in. Alternatively, it can also be generated through an SMS, android app. Furthermore, once E-way bill is generated, it cannot be edited for any mistake. However, it can be cancelled within 24 hours of generation.
Who is required to generate an E-Way Bill ?
- When the movement of goods/consignment is made by a registered person either in the capacity of a consignee or consignor in his/her vehicle or hired vehicles, then the registered person or the recipient is required to obtain an e-way bill.
- In case, if the registered person causes the movement of goods and handed these over to the transporter but the e-way bill has not been generated, then the transporter is required to generate the e-way bill.
- When an unregistered person causes the movement of goods through his/her conveyance or hired conveyance, then the e-way bill needs to be generated either by the unregistered person or by the transporter.
- When an unregistered person transfers the goods to a registered person and the registered person is known to the unregistered person at the time of the start of the movement of goods, then it will be considered that the registered person is moving the consignment and therefore, the registered person or transport shall obtain the e-way bill.
If the transporters are carrying goods by road, rail or air, they are also required to generate e-way bill if the supplier has not generated an e-way bill.
Cases in which E-way bill is not required
E-way bill is not required in following cases:-
- If the mode of transport is non-motor vehicle.
- If the goods are transported for clearance by customs from customs port, airport, air cargo complex or land customs station to Inland Container Depot (ICD) or Container Freight Station (CFS).
- If the goods are transported under customs supervision or customs seal.
- If the goods are transported from one custom station to another or under custom bonds from ICD.
- If there is transport of transit cargo to or from Nepal or Bhutan.
- If the Ministry of Defence is the consignor or consignee and the movement is caused by the defence formation of the ministry.
- If the transport is of empty cargos.
- If the goods are being transported by the rail and where the consignor of goods is the central government, state government or local authority.
- There will not be any requirement of e-way bill on the goods specified in the respective state/union territory GST rules.
- If the consignor is transporting goods to or from between place of business and a weighbridge for weighment at a distance of 20 km, accompanied by a delivery challan.
What is the Validity period of an E-way Bill?
E-way bill is based on the distance travelled by the goods and is valid for a period as listed below. The validity of the e-way bill is calculated by the date and time of generation of e-way bill:-
Type of Conveyance
Validity of EWB
Goods other than over dimensional cargo
Less than 100 km
For every additional 100 km or part thereof
For over dimensional cargo
Less than 20 km
For every additional 20 km or part thereof
E-way bill is subject to renewal also. Its validity can be extended before or after the expiry of the bill. The generator of such bill has to obtain e-way bill either four hours before the expiry or four hours after the expiry of the e-way bill.
Issues in Implementation across India
All states and Union territories have shown good response towards E-Way bill has been actively ensured a unified compliance throughout India. However, certain issues have surfaced in implementation of E-way bill regime across India. One of the major area of concern that the logistics Industry facing is that the unregulated transporters may have limited access to network connectivity and therefore would not be able to utilise the benefits of this system to its full potential. Of the total e-way bills generated across India, the percentage of way bills created via mobile phone in the past three months stands at just 2%.
Further, an extension of validity of E-way bill is resulting in the generation of multiple waybill numbers against a single invoice, which could lead to duplication. Furthermore, there is also no mechanism to track delivery and closure of transportation of goods on the portal. The government can improve upon the user experience of the portal.
This transformation has helped in the seamless flow of goods as the multiple checkpoints have been eliminated. Further, it has reduced the burden on the revenue officers or assessing officers as the paperwork has been reduced leaving a very minute possibility to defraud the government. If you talk about a broader perspective, it has brought down the transportation costs and reduced the waiting time, ensuring a timely delivery of goods and a cleaner environment to live in. This has been a big boost to the lackadaisical logistics sector which had been adding little to the economy. Moreover, any movement of goods without following the due procedure laid down by the government attracts a penalty, thus deterrence is created for those who fail to conform. This has led to a notable increase in the GST collections.
A lot has to be done to make the movement of goods, borderless, and this initiative of the government is in the right direction. For businesses with operations across the country, the system is likely to pose a fresh set of compliance challenges. But for businesses and the economy as a whole, the endeavor to keep the incidence of tax same throughout the country will help in bringing in more investment, aiding ideas like Make in India etc. Considered to be a method to check tax evasion under GST regime, innovative measures like linking of goods with RFID tag can streamline inspection at checkpoints assuring a better tax compliance.
However, Government acknowledging the problem, is trying to iron out the wrinkles, and despite the initial glitches, it is one of the major reforms in the logistics sector which is destined to play an important role in the transformation of India as a trade hub on lines with China , Singapore , USA etc.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.