Even after lapse of more than seven months after the due date, only around 20 percent of the Goods and services tax (GST) payers have filed their annual returns for 2017-18, despite the deadline being extended on several occasions.

The poor response from the taxpayers has prompted Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) chairman Pranab K Das to forward letters to all top officers across the country, instructing them to initiate outreach programmes as the latest deadline is on August 31.

Out of an estimated 90 lakh taxpayers who have to file GSTR-9, GSTR-9A and GSTR-9C forms, 19.3 lakh had filed the returns by August 3, although officials said that there has been some pick-up in recent days. There was also a delay in putting in place the utilities (to file the returns) and some clarity was needed.

GST returns have been very complex and  businesses have been complaining that compliance is difficult, prompting the government to rework the monthly filing.

This time, businesses are complaining that many of them are finding it challenging to reconcile data. Say, If your business is spread in four states, you have four registrations, while the balance sheet is consolidated. So, you need to split things all over again. You can’t go by your monthly filings. Entities with turnover of over Rs 2 crore also need to be audited and many of them are yet to complete the process. Some are citing the deadline for filing income tax returns, which is also August 31, as the reason for chartered accountants unable to complete audit although they pertain to FY 2017-18.

In his letter, Das underlined the need to reach out to taxpayers to help in filing annual returns and reconciliation statements.