Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ask, and you shall be provided… cash memos

People in Sikkim are not accustomed to asking for cash memos for the purchases they make; nor are the business enterprises here accustomed to giving cash receipts for the sales they make. While it is always advisable to ask for a cash receipt on a purchase, the casual attitude of the people has virtually pushed this business exercise of asking and receiving cash memos to redundancy. In this context, the direction of the state government making it mandatory for all business enterprises in Sikkim to issue cash memos on sale of any commodity is rather curious as well as puzzling. No doubt there is already a standing order on the issue which makes this mandatory but, like the public, the government too is casual and never took this ‘standing order’ seriously either.
What makes this recent order puzzling and difficult to comprehend is that the state government has threatened to cancel trade licenses of those business enterprises which do not issue cash memos to customers. It is indeed difficult to see small shops issuing cash memos on purchases by customers; in fact, as an official of the UD&HD informed, cash memos are to be given for purchase of all ‘packed items’. Even the tiny paan dokan by the corner of the road has packed items. Would be rather impractical to expect receipts being issued there. But the government is serious, or so its officials insist.
The Urban Development & Housing Department issued a notification last week that makes it “mandatory” for all business establishments in the state (all trade license holders) to issue genuine cash memos to the consumers for any packaged items sold. As officials inform, the notification, which comes into immediate effect, is intended at benefiting the consumers by strengthening the legal support system under the Consumer Protection Act, failing which the trade licenses of the business establishments can be cancelled by the concerned department.
“There have been instances when the lack of proper receipts and cash memos has discouraged consumers from taking legal action against errant business establishments in cases of expired or damaged goods that were sold to them,” states UD&HD, Special Secretary, LB Chettri.
The question is how does the government intend to put this direction in to effective implementation? The Special Secretary informed that the matter of implementation would be shouldered by the Urban Local Bodies and the inspectors of the UD&HD.
The other aspect of such a move of the government is to enhance tax collection and thereby, increasing state revenue and also checking any irregularities in transaction. As most business enterprises do not often issue cash memos it is difficult for the tax collection agencies to verify the actual amount of goods sold and therefore the taxes that accrue to the government.
However, the UD&HD Special Secretary stated that the department is still working out the logistics of the items that could come under the purview of the new notification with the business establishments. He also added that the State Consumer Helpline, Legal Metrology Unit under FCS&CA department already had the logistics for the extension of the new notification.
“The Consumers don’t ask for cash memos but now as per the new notification if the consumer asks for the same and is refused, the trade license of the business establishment can be cancelled. The implementation part is still being examined and we have given the business establishments some time to get their books in order,” explains the Special Secretary.
There is also the question of whether there is a minimum purchasing amount below which issuing of cash memos can be dispensed with. State Consumer Helpline legal counselor, Sunita Subba informs that unlike the previous rule where the shopkeepers and business establishments had to produce cash memos for purchases above Rs. 100, the Consumer Protection Act now makes it mandatory for any business establishment to provide cash memos for items that cost even Rs. 2  if the consumer asks for the same.
The legal counselor also informs that all “packaged items” including liquor, medicines, sweets in tea shops and paan shops selling packaged items are all covered under the Consumer Protection Act and if a consumer asked for a receipt or a cash memo, the business establishment was required to furnish the same in the interest of the consumer failing which all necessary action could be initiated against the business establishments.
While it does seem a fancy notion still that all traders and shopkeepers will now voluntarily issue cash memos several traders in Gangtok informed that all trade license holders running businesses were actually required to keep cash memos. This is as per the rules of the UD&HD and also Consumer Protection Act. “If someone asks for a cash memo, how can we refuse them? If it is the rule then we will have to follow it otherwise action can be initiated against us,” states a local business man.
The business community however wants the notification to be circulated widely so that every trade license holder knows about the notification and the penalties that come with it. “As of now it is still not clear to many as to what comes under the purview of the notification, this should be made clear to all, after which the implementation should take place,” states another businessman. 

The notification states that all ‘Business Enterprises in Sikkim are required to issue valid cash memos preferably electronic to the consumer on sale of any commodities.” Further it states that in the event of failure to issue cash memo the trade license shall be cancelled “…in accordance with Rule 13(l)(k) of the Sikkim Trade License and Miscellaneous Provisions Rules, 2011. 

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