At every GST council, one request from the Industry remains constant.The request to postpone the filing of annual return GSTR-9 as it still struggles to comply with the same. GSTR-9 in its present form remains very complicated with details of all the transactions to be summarized in a single return.Imagine, for organisations like railways this means trillions of transactions in a year to be crunched into the format provided by the GST department.Most of the citizens would think that if Industry cannot do this, then government surely would be far behind.Surprisingly, the GST-compliance story of railways is quite different.

Indian railways has already filed GSTR-9 in many states and has not requested GST council even once to postpone the deadline. Isn’t it surprising that a public sector entity ,which is mostly accused of lazying around , has delivered on compliance front much ahead of time while Industry is still seeking time to do so? The answer is that the public sector has one of the best talent in the country and when they are organised in the right manner,the result is achievement of goal well in time and within the desired cost.

It was no small task for railways to comply with indirect taxation laws like GST given that it has a massive turnover of approximately $250 billion.However, Railways could file annual returns in time because of co-ordinated response at various levels of execution.The strong and focused leadership at the railway board level was quickly able to realize the complexity of task and the importance of using technology to prepare the returns.This meant collaborating with Railways technology unit-CRIS, which maintains the centralized database, and has huge resources to replicate the solution throughout the country. However, the ability of the top leadership to sense that solution will come from the field was the turning point in the whole compliance story.

Various zones were encouraged by Railway Board and CRIS to work on fintech solutions for GST-compliance.As a result of which, cross-functional teams consisting of financial experts and technologists were established at various locations.The common thing among them was that they had all served in railways for long and knew very well the terminology of railways.As a result,they could effortlessly translate the railways data into the format required by GST department.The business logic given by finance experts was meticulously converted into fully functional application by technology experts.The pilot-solution that came out at field level was quickly replicated by CRIS all over the country ensuring that every zone is able to file its returns in time and without duplication of any further efforts.

GST compliance story of railways shows that far-sighted vision and good management can bring transformative changes in the working of government department.The career employees have great advantage of knowing the in’s and out’s of an organisation.Thus, they are able to quickly adapt to new environment and produce the desired result.The only thing these employees require from organisation is motivation and support  so that they do not get bogged down by mundane affairs of organisation.Railways’ GST story will go down in the annals of history as the fastest compliance story of any government organisation and as the hallmark of fin-tech initiatives in government.

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