As the Goods and Services Tax (GST) inches closer to implementation, the government’s GST awareness campaign has somehow missed the bull’s eye, say experts. While the government’s effort to simplify GST for the masses is being appreciated, experts opine that the campaign neither addresses specific industries nor does it clarify the challenges in the initial implementation phase.
The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has published GST-related details in the form of full-page advertisements in newspapers, supported by FAQ’s and adedicated GST section on the CBEC website featuring latest updates on the new tax reforms. Special outreach programmes and outdoor campaigns are also being sponsored by the government to spread awareness about GST. Despite these efforts, experts feel that the GST campaign leaves a lot more to be desired.
Commenting on the new GST ad campaign, Asheesh Chatterjee, CFO, RBNL,thinks that while the campaign oversimplifies the GST tax system for greater mass appeal, it does not address some industries. “Some of these campaigns are too generic and largely oriented towards mass audiences. They fail to address specific industries. In fact, the campaign needs to be skewed to specific industries like retail, auto, etc. I would say the current campaigns are trying to oversimplify the GST tax regime.”
To give the GST awareness campaign a major thrust, the government has roped in Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador. In the 40-second video, Bachchan explains GST as a unifying force just like the three colors in the national flag to create 'one nation, one tax, one market'.
Sharing his thoughts on the GST campaign, Rajiv Dingra, Founder and CEO, WATConsult, said, “The campaign is an attempt to give a nationalistic/patriotic angle to the introduction of GST. The choice of Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador is apt as he is a national figure known by all ages across India. On the whole, while the campaign does give a nationalistic colour to GST, it does little to clarify the challenges in the initial implementation. Most businesses are worried about the chaos the implementation may cause and more micro messaging is needed to ensure that business and end consumers see this as a positive move.”
This lack of detailing for specific businesses has earned the campaign its own share of critics. Most of them believe that the new GST campaign could have been conceptualised in a more holistic and planned way.
According to Ashish Patkar, Founder and CEO, Monk Media Network, the new GST campaign does not effectively deliver ‘factual information’ about the new tax regime. “GST has been touted as the biggest tax reform of independent India. The GST TV ads totally miss explaining why it's the largest tax reform ever. They neither deliver factual information nor really paint out the larger picture. At best, they appear to create a nationalistic fervor in favour of the GST reform,” stated Patkar.