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GST Rates Finder app review: Heck! It is as complex as GST itself

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 9 July 2017, 13:03 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) officials, along with finance minister Arun Jaitley, launched the official GST Rate Finder app on Friday. As the name suggests, this app is your one-stop guide to everything about the Goods and Services Tax (GST) recently introduced by the Government of India. The app is "for public, for customers, for consumers, traders, students," CBEC chairperson Vanaja Sarna said. It's for "anyone who wishes to have very handily (GST) rates available".

At the moment, it is available on the Google Play Store, but a version for Apple iOS users is on the cards. The key to the success of the app is the fact that once downloaded, it can be used offline as well.

To find out if the app is useful or not, and worth downloading, read on for my thoughts.

How to download the app?

  1. Unlock your smartphone
  2. Open the Google Play Store
  3. Search for GST Rate Finder
  4. Scroll down the page and find the app by the Central Board of Excise of Customs (CBEC) with a rating of 4.5 stars
  5. Click the Install button

Look and usage

The app is very basic. In fact, it looks as basic as the BHIM app launched by the government a couple of months back. There are just three basic options:

  1. Tax rates: goods
  2. Tax rates: services
  3. Information @ CBEC

Apart from this, there is a search button on the bottom right-hand corner. Nothing about the app is unique and nothing stands out.

One can search for applicable rates by basis of the  description of goods or services, HSN number or even section or heading number.

Does it serve its purpose?

Not completely. I, as a consumer, have been struggling with the app for about thirty minutes trying to make heads-and-tails about the new GST rates in this country. Search for 'cars' and nothing about hatchback, SUVs, luxury cars, sedans comes up. In fact, nothing at all about passenger vehicles features in the list. I tried typing in 'vehicle' and still nothing. Only electric vehicles appear and that too under 'electrically operated vehicles'.

GST Rate Finder app screenshot

Switching to 'restaurants. Since I eat out quite often, I'm familiar with the GST rates of A/C restaurants and non A/C restaurants. Most people though aren't familiar. Now the former is taxed at 18% and the latter at 12%. The app though has some long-winded jargon that I as a consumer needn't have to pluck my brains out trying to understand.

GST Rate Finder app screenshot

Furthermore, as pointed out by Meghnad on Twitter, one must try different spellings to get the proper result.

Compensation cess

"A taxpayer can search for applicable CGST (Central GST), SGST (State GST), UTGST (Union Territory GST) rate and Compensation Cess on a supply," the finance ministry said.

Searching for two items with compensation cess - pan masala (60%) and aerated water (12%) - and I couldn't find that information on the app. It just showed the applicable GST rates.

GST Rate Finder app screenshot
GST Rate Finder app screenshot

Android over iOS

It's a no brainer that this app will help, at some level, every single citizen of India. It's curious as to why the Government then favours Android over iOS. Even the BHIM app that launched a few months ago launched on Android much before the iOS app was launched.

Is it truly an offline app?

The answer again is no. While the tax rates, both goods and services, can be searched offline, the 'Information @ CBEC' option on the app leads the user to a web browser and to this web page (cbec.gov.in/htdocs-cbec/gst/index). The page has a bunch of information about GST - MyGST, GST Laws Rules & Rates, Migration to GST - and more much.

GST Rate Finder app screenshot

Final thoughts

The Government can do so much more to simplify the app for the consumer. They can cut down the jargon for the consumer and turn it into a separate section from the trader who may need all the information to pay the right % of GST.

The app can also accommodate multiple spellings that a word may have and could have a list of most used good and services so the user can quickly find what he is looking for.

Overall, the app has a clean and simple interface but doesn't push the boundaries at all and ultimately, people may just end up going to the browser and doing a Google search to find the rates they are looking for.

First published: 8 July 2017, 18:09 IST
 
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.

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