How GST has Helped Startups to Raise Funding

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Published Date:  14-12-2023   Author:   moulik-jain
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Among the significant tax changes that took place in the independent Indian economy was the introduction of the GST. Initiated in 2017, it consolidated diverse indirect taxes imposed by central and state governments into a comprehensive tax system. Introducing GST for Indian business startups is a blessing for their enhancement and financing chances.

Simplification of compliances and procedures for taxation were among the main goals for introducing GST to make it easier to do business in India. Startups found handling taxes across various states challenging the old indirect tax system. On the other hand, startups currently only require one registration, internet filing of tax returns, and one monthly payment under GST. This has gone a long way in alleviating the tax payment problem on many innovative ventures that have become integral to global economic life.

Besides, GST has significantly reduced double taxation on goods, leading to better cash flows, and new enterprises can use that money for expansion. Additionally, GST has introduced the input tax credit mechanism, making tax filing and compliance even more accessible and transparent. Thus, for this reason, by allowing Startups to focus less on tax management, GST has helped in easy compliance, better cash flows and liquidity position, creating a favorable environment for Startup success.

GST and Startup Registration

Under the previous tax regime, startups had to obtain VAT, service tax and other state-specific registrations to start their operations, which was cumbersome. GST offers a unified platform for registration, filing returns, and paying taxes for goods and services.

A startup only requires a single GST registration, even if it operates pan-India. The entire process is online and standardized across states, saving significant time and cost for startups. GST also allows startups to register as regular taxpayers or opt for the Composition Scheme. Under this scheme, startups with annual turnover below Rs 1.5 crore can pay a 1-5% flat tax rate and avoid complex GST compliance. Nearly 70% of all registered businesses have adopted the Composition Scheme.

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The higher turnover threshold of Rs 40 lakh for GST registration (vs Rs 20 lakh earlier) also excludes many early-stage startups. Those under this limit need not register under GST, freeing them to focus on building their business.

One of the foremost complications startups faced under the earlier indirect tax structure was obtaining registrations and filing taxes in different states. This entailed significant administrative hassles and expenses, especially for startups looking to expand pan-India. However, under GST, registration procedures were made substantially simpler.

A single GST registration suffices for conducting business anywhere in India. Startups are no longer required to obtain VAT, service tax or state-specific registrations. A centralized online registration procedure replaces the earlier decentralized and offline application process, significantly improving ease and cutting down time for starting a business in India.

Startups also benefit from a higher threshold limit of ₹40 lakhs for obtaining GST registration as against VAT thresholds ranging from ₹5 lakhs to ₹20 lakhs previously. The service tax threshold was also merely ₹10 lakhs. The increased turnover limit exempts many smaller startups from obtaining GST registration, allowing them to allocate resources towards building business operations in the critical early stages.

The composition scheme also benefits smaller startups with turnover below ₹1.5 crores. It allows startups to avail easier tax compliances by filing returns only once a quarter at fixed tax rates, eliminating extensive documentation requirements. This further reduces administrative overheads and gives small startups flexibility to expand gradually.

Thus, whether a multi-state enterprise or a bootstrap early-stage startup, business registration and subsequent filing of taxes is now significantly more straightforward under GST, contributing immensely towards improving India’s ranking in the ease of doing business index. Reduced compliances enable startups to deploy resources towards core operations and expand faster, directly accelerating their growth.

Also Read: Is GST Registration Mandatory for Startups?

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GST and Startup Logistics

Logistical inefficiencies and costs posed significant hurdles for startups under the previous indirect tax regime due to multiple state taxes and toll charges inflating supply chain costs. GST implementation has led to considerable improvements in this area by integrating the country into a unified market and streamlining the inter-state movement of goods.

  • Eliminating border check posts and toll plazas due to the removal of inter-state taxes has dramatically reduced transit times, enabling faster movement of goods across the country. Instead of delays and long wait times earlier, the seamless transfer of goods allows startups to rapidly expand beyond their home states with lower inventory and logistics costs.
  • Cascading taxes inflated overall logistics costs as taxes were levied on cumulative invoice values, including previously paid taxes at each transaction stage. Under GST, taxes are calculated only on the actual invoice value, reducing compounding effects and helping lower supply chain costs. The availability of input tax credits also allows credits on taxes paid on business purchases, leading to significant cost savings.
  • The e-way bill system also enhances the movement of goods through improved tracking and prevents tax evasion compared to fragmented search across states earlier. Along with faster goods transfer, it enables efficient supply chain planning for startups. Unified tax rates regulate pricing uniformly across country locations, supporting national expansion.

While India still has significant scope to improve its logistics infrastructure, GST has addressed several tax-related hurdles and inefficiencies. For startups aiming to scale rapidly across states, reduced logistics costs, smooth inter-state transport, and faster delivery times are immensely beneficial factors contributing heavily towards geographic expansion, revenue growth and controlling operating expenses.

For startups, these logistics benefits translate into:

  • Lower operational overheads: No need to maintain multiple warehouses across states or file tax paperwork for inter-state movement.
  • Faster delivery: Checkpoints at state borders abolished, enabling speedier movement of inventory and delivery to customers.
  • Improved cash flows: Upfront tax payment on inter-state sales was removed, allowing startups to reinvest funds into the business.
  • Supply chain efficiency: Common registration, filing procedure, and tax base across India integrate the supply chain and drive overall business efficiency.

GST enables startups to scale operations faster by reducing logistical issues and costs. The expanded market access and supply chain transparency make them more attractive to investors.

GST and Startup Invoicing

Invoicing procedural difficulties posed recurring problems for startups under previous taxation systems due to the distinction of taxes on goods and services requiring the maintenance of separate accounts and records. GST has addressed these difficulties significantly through simplified invoicing norms.

A single unified GST tax structure subsumes all indirect taxes, eliminating the need to differentiate between goods and services. Uniform invoice rules require startups to maintain only one consolidated account across goods and services supplied, resulting in a reduction of compliance overheads.

Simplified invoicing templates specify only key details, avoiding earlier complex multipart invoices. Easily understandable invoices ensure transparency and credibility, helping startups formalize financial records critical towards availing external funding.

A seamless flow of input tax credits further reduces invoicing mismatches. Invoice matching mechanisms have also curbed tax evasion, improving realization rates. Higher collections combined with online filing enable startups to claim timely credits and refunds, helping them manage working capital better.

With compliance requirements moving online, automated tools can also help startups stay updated with due dates and procedures. By enabling procedural efficiency, transparency and cash flow predictability, simplified GST invoicing mechanisms have significantly enhanced accounting standards – a crucial marker towards eventual funding success for any startup.

GST and Startup Funding

More accessible compliance procedures, reduced logistics costs, and simplified invoices have helped improve the financial status and growth outlook for startups in general. By directly enhancing startups’ operational efficiency funding potential and facilitating expansion, GST has positively influenced the Indian startup ecosystem.

Improved cash flows from input tax credits help startups reinvest funds into business growth and core operations instead of non-productive areas like managing compliance or elongated payment cycles. Higher liquidity combined with simplified accounting allows startups to showcase the desirable financial discipline for prospective investors.

Fundamental tax reforms also signal the government’s intent towards promoting startups and MSMEs. Initiated just a year after the Startup India initiative, GST denotes India’s focus on nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship, leading to greater confidence among global investors and local funding agencies while assessing emerging sectors.

Expanding addressable markets by facilitating geographic expansion also allows startups to build scalable models capable of attracting venture capital. Investors favour startups with national footprints, indicating greater scope for revenue and visibility. By supporting rapid multi-state growth at reduced costs, GST enables startups to demonstrate runway vital towards fundraising.

While aspects like funding knowledge gaps and evolving digital capabilities still require focus, GST has fast-tracked early-stage formalization, allowing Indian startups to dedicate higher resources towards innovation excellence – a precursor to attracting growth-stage funds essential towards maturing India’s startup ecosystem.

Conclusion

The Goods and Services Tax, since its nationwide implementation in 2017, has significantly improved the ease of doing business and addressed complicated indirect tax inefficiencies that posed substantial challenges for startups earlier. By subsuming a myriad of indirect taxes into a simplified structure rationalizing tax slabs and procedures, GST has enhanced overall tax compliance efficiency.

For startups specifically, benefits like centralized registration, higher threshold limits, composition schemes, uniform invoice rules, and emphasis on online procedures have significantly reduced administrative overheads, allowing dedicated focus towards innovation and growth – imperative during formative scaling stages for any startup but significantly more so in India’s traditionally compliance-intensive tax environment.

At a broader level, GST has also addressed core startup growth barriers like exorbitant logistics costs and convoluted tax credit mechanisms enabling inter-state expansion and predictable cash flows – factors that attract external investors. While India’s funding ecosystem continues to evolve and startup tax policies require ongoing reforms to nurture innovation, the advent of GST has undoubtedly, directly and indirectly, contributed towards accelerating startup growth, bettering financial position, and improving funding accessibility.

With more fine-tuning of tax slabs and procedural aspects, as learnings emerge from on-ground implementations, GST holds immense potential to substantiate India’s ambitions of becoming a global startup hub.

Also Read: Understanding the Impact of GST on Indian Startups: Compliance and Benefits

FAQs

  • How has GST made registrations easier for startups?

GST offers a single platform for tax registration, filing, and payment across India, replacing multiple state-wise registrations under VAT, service tax, etc. Startups now only need one compliance procedure for their operations pan-India, saving significant time and cost. The higher turnover threshold of Rs 40 lakhs for GST registration excludes many early-stage startups from tax burdens.

  • What are the benefits of the Composition Scheme under GST for startups?

Startups with an annual turnover under Rs 1.5 crore can opt for the Composition Scheme, which offers simplified compliance in GST. They must pay a flat 1-5% tax and are exempted from standard procedural requirements. Nearly 70% of registered businesses have adopted this scheme for low tax costs and simpler compliances.

  • How does GST help startups scale up operations faster across India?

By subsuming all indirect taxes, like CST, entry tax, etc., into one GST regime, obstacles around the inter-state movement of goods are removed. Joint registration, filing process, and tax base help integrate the supply chain across India seamlessly. Startups can access the pan-India market faster.

  • How has GST made the invoicing process simpler for startups?

Standard product classification, uniform tax rates and state compliance rules help startups raise pan-India invoices quickly through GST. Single-format billing software transparent input tax credits also enable faster nationwide scaling. Overall, lower tax incidence reduces product prices.

  • How has GST improved the cash flows of startups?

Average tax rates have dropped from 25-30% to 15-18% for most goods and services under GST. Faster input credit reconciliation and upfront inter-state sales tax removal improve working capital. Better cash flows mean improved re-investment for growth.

  • How has GST made startups more operationally efficient?

Simplified tax structure, seamless input tax credits, integrated billing systems and logistics infrastructure drive massive efficiency for startups. Resources saved via lower compliance costs can be allocated towards business expansion and innovation.

  • How does GST provide better financial transparency for startups?

By reducing tax evasion and bringing uniformity in tax processes, GST adds more transparency and formalization of transactions in the startup system. Quality financial records and reporting align better with investor diligence processes before funding.

  • How does GST help startups improve their valuations and funding?

By enabling quick pan-India expansion, lowering operating costs and improving profitability metrics like margins, GST ramps up the future cash flow potential for startups significantly. This results in higher valuations during fundraising. GST incentives also build more investor confidence.

  • What are the recent funding trends reflecting startup growth post-GST?

Indian startups received $11.1 billion in funding in just the first three quarters of 2022, a 3X rise over last year. Several new unicorns and dec acorns have spurted after 2017, too. Such exponential growth owes a lot to business-friendly reforms like GST.

  • How can startups maximize GST benefits during fundraising?

Register under the Composition Scheme if turnover exceeds Rs 1.5 crore, correctly claim input tax credits, maintain transparent financial record-keeping, and integrate GST systems within operations. This showcases growth potential and systemizes scale-up for investors.

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Moulik Jain

I am a seasoned marketer specializing in Tax, Finance, and MSMEs who brings a wealth of hands-on experience to demystify complex subjects, providing insightful guidance for entrepreneurs and finance enthusiasts alike.

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