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GST to snap up IT talent from the pvt sector

Ahead of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) getting the Parliament’s nod in the current session, efforts to ready the underlying technology infrastructure are being hurried.

The Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN), the quasi-government company tasked with building the technology backbone for the long-pending indirect tax reform is looking to hire technology professionals from companies such as Infosys, Wipro or Accenture among others. The head-hunting will involve senior to middle management professionals who will oversee the project implementation. 

However, the body is in the process of finalising the tender for selecting a managed service provider— an IT firm – to which a majority of the mandate will be outsourced to. Navin Kumar, chairman, GSTN told Business Standard  that the idea is to have a strong technology wing, which is involved with the technology provider during the system development stage. “We need someone to define what we want, know what is being developed and then continue to monitor them. That is why we need senior level people with the experience of handling and executing large IT projects,” said Navin Kumar. He added that their technology team will ensure that proper documentation is done, ensure that the system doesn’t get locked into one system and there is a clear exit management plan. The contract with the service provider is expected to be for around five years. 

This is a departure from the usual practice of state owned entities hiring only government employees. To make it attractive for professionals to join the company, GSTN will offer market based salaries, added Navin Kumar. “We have been receiving a lot of queries on what kind of pay packages will be offered,” Navin Kumar added. To start with GSTN has around 100 people, with 40 percent of the employees having technology expertise while another 40 percent being from taxation. 

While more technology employees will be hired from the market, the Central Board of Excise and Customs along with the states have been asked to send tax officials on deputation. 

The background work on setting up the portal has begun. Prakash Kumar, CEO, said a request for proposals (RFP) was being designed and the contract would be finalised by next month. The company appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers the main consultants to the project last month to assess a pilot that was created by the CBEC and National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) before GSTN was set up. The pilot has tested the concept by building applications that have enabled both registration and return filing.

While the government has indicated a deadline of April 1, 2016, for rolling out the project, GSTN has already started working closely with state authorities to authentic PAN information. Prakash Kumar said 70 per cent of this data was already “cleaned” and he hoped to finish the process by April.

“Meanwhile, we expect that by September-October our MSP will be able to roll out the registration so that we port and test data,” he added. The final testing of the systems is expected to begin from January 2016 through March.

However, the project is looking at ambitious timelines. The biggest concern of GSTN executives right now is a constitutional amendment bill to be passed and ratified by two-thirds of the states, and for the states to pass their own GST laws. And before that, said Navin Kumar, basics like “the GST Business Rules and Process, which includes the rate of tax, have to be frozen at the earliest for us to begin work on the network.”

The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Constitution Amendment Bill on Goods and Services Tax (GST), clearing the way for its introduction in ongoing session of Parliament. The Bill is likely to be tabled in the ongoing winter session of Parliament that concludes on December 23.

The GST will subsume most of the indirect taxes like excise duty and service tax at the central level and VAT and local levies on the states front. The GST Bill was last introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011 by the then UPA government but lapsed, requiring the new NDA government to come with a new Bill. Earlier this week in a compromise deal, the Centre decided to keep petroleum out of GST in return for states agreeing to entry tax being subsumed in the new tax regime.

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