As the initial frenzy over de-legalising of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes ebbs, many small business owners and self-employed professionals are learning to live with a new reality — there will be more scrutiny of their incomes, expenses and tax compliance.
Many tax consultants and chartered accountants say there have been several enquiries from clients seeking guidance on how to rework their businesses to remain tax compliant. “Bulk of these enquiries are from traders and self-employed professionals who have a fairly large cash component in their business dealings that usually escaped the book of accounts,” says Paras Mehra, a Delhi-based chartered accountant.
Pavan Kumar Vijay, founder and managing director, Corporate Professionals, says: “We have received at least 50 requests from clients looking to restructure their businesses or register new companies.”
Experts say many small business owners now want to come clean on taxes. “Compliance is where we see significant impact of demonetisation,” says Pallav Pradyumn Narang, partner, Arkay & Arkay Chartered Accountants. “There will be an increase in the number of people paying taxes and filing tax returns as more and more transactions are moved into the regular banking channel.” Vijay of Corporate Professionals says he expects a spurt in registration of new businesses. “Many small businesses will take this opportunity to start afresh.”
Experts point out that the demonetisation exercise has forced many individuals to declare and deposit their cash holdings in banks, which will be captured by the tax net. If this cash flow is not backed by commensurate business income or fees, it will be taxed at the rate of 30 per cent and could attract penalty of up to 200 per cent of the tax evaded.
Riaz Thingna, director of Grant Thornton Advisory, says any additional recorded revenues will lead to added compliance, like tax audits for sole proprietors and partnerships, in cases where gross revenue was earlier below the specified threshold.
From an accounting perspective, experts say large and small businesses will not need realignment in their accounting processes and strategies. “There will not be significant impact on how businesses account for incomes, as cash and cash equivalents are treated on a par for accounting purposes,” says Narang.
The demonetisation move, which may soon be followed by a new indirect tax regime under the Goods and Services Tax (expected to be rolled out from April 2017), will make it prudent for small business and professionals to appropriately capture sales, purchases and stock details for tax and financial reporting purposes, say experts. “Small business entities should immediately consider procuring accounting software packages capable of capturing the minute details of sales, purchases and stock appropriately,” says Pritam Mahure, a Pune-based chartered accountant. These entities should reconcile bank details with the sale details regularly to identify any mismatch. Mahure says the shift towards digital currency could lead to a fluctuation in revenues of small businesses as buyers increasingly insist on digital currency (including cards and wallets) and request invoices.
Despite a rise in compliance costs, the capturing and reporting of transactions will serve well small business entities in the long term. “Access to more working capital from banks, more productive avenues to invest surplus funds from business and increased corporate governance will spur growth,” says Thingna.
Experts, however, point out that these businesses would have to brace for some cash flow challenges due to tax deducted at source and GST payments on a monthly basis. “Small businesses and entrepreneurs should see this as an opportunity to use compliance as a tool to strengthen internal controls and processes to bolster management practices.” Early adaptation of record-keeping may help minimise the negative cash flow impact.
For small businesses looking to restructure operations, Amit Maheshwari, partner, Ashok Maheshwary & Associates, says it is better to choose their business structure depending on scale, nature of transactions and investment requirements. Tax experts note that registering of new business is likely to become simpler. From December, the government will roll out a scheme to incorporate companies electronically, under Simplified Proforma for Incorporating a Company Electronically e-form. The initiative under the Ease of Doing Business, government officials claim, will provide speedy incorporation-related services.
A higher level of compliance is something small businesses and self-employed professionals will have to learn to live with.