E-commerce is booming in India. With more people buying and selling online every day, it’s crucial to understand the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rules and compliance for e-commerce. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about GST for e-commerce in India.
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The e-commerce industry has grown tremendously in India thanks to increased internet access, smartphone penetration, and demand for convenience. Research shows e-commerce is expected to grow to $200 billion by 2026 due to rising online buyers both in metros and smaller cities.
However, the e-commerce sector was not clearly addressed under old indirect tax laws. The introduction of GST in 2017 put in place a unified tax framework with defined rules for e-commerce transactions.
As an e-commerce seller, it’s essential to understand GST compliance for your business model to stay legal and avoid penalties. This guide will make GST easy for you by covering key aspects like:
- Place of supply provisions
- Invoicing rules
- Applicable GST rates
- Return filing procedure
- Liabilities of e-commerce operators vs sellers
Follow this guide and partner with Filingwala.com to manage your e-commerce accounting efficiently. Their team of chartered accountants and tax experts will help you with end-to-end compliance and advisory so you can focus on growing your business.
Place of Supply Rules
The place of supply determines whether a transaction is intra-state or inter-state, which then determines whether CGST/SGST or IGST applies. The general principle is that GST will be charged where the goods or services are consumed, not where they originate from.
Here are the place of supply rules for e-commerce:
- Goods: Place where goods are delivered. If shipping address is different from billing address, the place of supply will be the billing address.
- Services: Location of the service receiver.
- Digital goods like ebooks: Location of the buyer.
Let’s understand this with a few examples:
- Ramesh from Mumbai buys a mobile phone from an online seller in Jaipur. Place of supply is Mumbai. This is an inter-state supply. IGST will apply.
- Ankita gifts a dress from an online store in Delhi to her friend Priya in Gurgaon. Place of supply is Ankita’s billing address in Noida. IGST will be charged.
- XYZ Ltd purchases accounting software from a provider in Bangalore. XYZ Ltd is located in Chennai. Place of supply is Chennai. IGST will apply.
Therefore, always determine the place of supply first based on the above rules. Then you can ascertain whether CGST/SGST (for intra-state) or IGST (for inter-state) is applicable.
GST Rules for Digital Goods
For digital products like e-books, apps, software, etc. place of supply is the location of the buyer.
- If a Delhi customer buys an e-book from an online seller in Mumbai, place of supply is Delhi. IGST will apply.
- When an enterprise in Hyderabad buys accounting software from a supplier in Pune, place of supply is Hyderabad. IGST will be charged.
Many e-commerce sellers miss this rule and end up paying CGST+SGST instead of IGST on digital goods. Be sure to classify digital supplies correctly.
E-Commerce Invoicing Requirements
As an e-commerce seller, you must issue proper GST invoices for all supplies. Invoices can be self-generated or outsourced to an accounting firm like Filingwala.com.
Here are the key details that must be mentioned on e-commerce sales invoices:
- Name, address, GSTIN of supplier
- Invoice number and date
- Name, address, GSTIN of buyer (for B2B supplies)
- HSN code of goods sold
- Quantity and net value after discount
- Applicable GST rate
- Place of supply
- Signature of supplier or authorized representative
Additionally, if your annual turnover exceeds ₹5 cr, you need to generate an Invoice Reference Number (IRN) from the GST portal before issuing invoices to registered businesses. Filingwala.com can handle IRN generation seamlessly through their automated solution.
How GST Applies to Different E-Commerce Models
The e-commerce industry has different business models, each with specific GST implications:
1. Inventory or Fulfillment Model
Here, the e-commerce platform owns the inventory. When an order is placed, goods are shipped from the platform’s own warehouse.
- GST registration – Platform and sellers have separate GSTIN
- Invoicing – Platform issues invoice on behalf of seller
- Tax to be paid – Platform pays tax under its GSTIN on behalf of sellers
Example: Cloudtail, Amazon Retail, etc.
2. Marketplace Model
The platform simply acts as an intermediary between buyers and sellers. Sellers manage their inventory and ship directly to buyers.
- GST registration – Sellers obtain separate GSTIN
- Invoicing – Sellers generate invoice in their name
- Tax to be paid – Sellers pay GST on their invoices
Example: Amazon marketplace, Flipkart, Meesho, etc.
Understand which model your e-commerce business follows and comply with GST accordingly. Marketplaces simply facilitate the supply between buyer and seller, while inventory models make the actual supply.
E-Commerce Operator Vs Seller Responsibilities
In the inventory model, the e-commerce operator holds inventory and makes supplies. They must:
- Take GST registration
- Issue invoices on behalf of sellers
- Pay GST on such invoices
- File GST returns
The sellers only supply goods to the operator who sells it further. Sellers don’t need separate registration.
In the marketplace model, the e-commerce operator simply facilitates interactions between buyers and sellers. The sellers make actual supplies. Hence,
E-commerce operator must:
- Ensure sellers have GSTIN
- Report details of suppliers and their turnover to tax authorities
Sellers need to:
- Obtain GST registration
- Issue invoices in their own name
- Pay taxes on such invoices
- File monthly/quarterly returns
Marketplaces must provide information on sellers to ensure tax compliance. Sellers are responsible for full GST compliance.
How to File GST Returns
Like other businesses, e-commerce sellers must file monthly and annual GST returns:
- GSTR-1: Furnish details of all outward supplies
- GSTR-3B: Pay tax and interest liability
- GSTR-2A: View documents uploaded by buyers
- Annual Return: Declare annual GST liability
E-commerce operators need to report supplier details in their GSTR-8 return.
Use trusted partners like Filingwala.com to correctly reconcile invoices, identify mismatches, and file error-free returns on time. This avoids penalties.
“Outsource your GST return filing and accounting to experts so you can focus on increasing sales and revenue for your e-commerce business,” advises of Filingwala.com.
Benefits of Outsourcing E-Commerce Accounting
Managing GST compliance alongside running an online business can be challenging. Outsource to an accounting firm to enjoy benefits like:
Correct taxes: Experts ensure you pay the right tax (CGST+SGST or IGST) based on place of supply rules.
Accurate returns: GST consultants reconcile invoices accurately and file error-free returns to avoid fines and scrutiny.
On-time compliance: Meet all deadlines for invoicing, return filing, audits and more without hassles.
Peace of mind: Stay stress-free knowing your taxes and compliance are handled reliably by professionals.
Cost savings: Save on investing in in-house accountants and GST software. Get services starting at just ₹6000/-
Focus your energy on sales and expansion while experts take care of back-end processes.
FAQs on GST for E-Commerce
Q: Do e-commerce operators need GST registration?
In the inventory model, yes. In the marketplace model, no – only sellers require registration.
Q: Can sellers on Amazon or Flipkart file GST returns quarterly?
No, e-commerce sellers cannot opt for quarterly filing even if turnover is below ₹1.5 crores. They have to file monthly.
Q: Is IRN generation mandatory for e-commerce sellers?
IRN is compulsory only if your annual turnover exceeds ₹5 cr. It applies for B2B invoices.
Q: Is GST charged on delivery charges?
Yes, delivery charges are included in the taxable value. Always invoice including delivery fees.
Q: Can input tax credit be claimed on business purchases?
Yes, ITC can be claimed on purchases like packing materials, imports, office supplies, etc.
Accurately understanding GST provisions is vital for e-commerce success in 2023. Partner with specialists like Filingwala.com to stay compliant, avoid penalties, and expand your online business.