India, which imposed a 28% goods and services tax (GST) on online gaming companies in October 2023, will review the tax structure for the sector after March, according to Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra. The tax hike, which was decided by a panel of state finance ministers headed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has affected the $20 billion online gaming industry, which witnessed a boom during the pandemic. The GST Council, which is the apex decision-making body for GST matters, agreed to revisit the tax rate after a six-month period.
Online Gaming Companies Face Tax Challenges and Notices
Online gaming companies, such as Delta Corp. and Dream11, have faced several challenges and notices from the tax authorities since the GST hike. The tax authorities have accused some of the companies of evading GST by under-reporting their revenues or inflating their expenses. The tax authorities have also questioned the valuation and classification of online gaming services, such as fantasy sports, skill-based games, and e-sports.
According to the Finance Ministry, the tax authorities have issued 71 notices to online gaming companies for alleged GST evasion of over 1.12 trillion rupees ($15 billion) during the 2023 and 2024 fiscal years. The tax authorities have also blocked the access of 53 foreign online gaming companies for not complying with the GST rules. The online gaming companies have challenged the tax notices and the blocking orders in various courts and tribunals, seeking relief and clarity.
Online Gaming Industry Seeks Rationalisation and Simplification of GST
The online gaming industry, which comprises various segments, such as real-money gaming, casual gaming, social gaming, and e-sports, has sought rationalisation and simplification of the GST regime. The industry has argued that the 28% GST rate, which is applicable to gambling and betting services, is too high and unfair for online gaming services, which are based on skill, entertainment, and technology. The industry has also claimed that the GST rate should be based on the net revenue or the margin of the companies, rather than the gross revenue or the face value of the transactions.
The industry has also requested the GST Council to provide clear and uniform guidelines for the valuation and classification of online gaming services, and to address the issues of double taxation and input tax credit. The industry has also urged the GST Council to create a separate category for online gaming services, and to recognise them as legitimate and regulated businesses that contribute to the economy and the society.
GST Council to Review Online Gaming Tax After March 31
The GST Council, which comprises the finance ministers of the central and state governments, will review the tax structure for online gaming companies after March 31, the end of the current fiscal year. Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra said that the GST Council will consider all the demands and suggestions of the online gaming industry, and will try to find a balanced and reasonable solution.
Malhotra also said that the GST Council will look into the possibility of simplifying the GST regime for online gaming companies, and will examine the best practices of other countries that have regulated and taxed online gaming services. Malhotra also said that the GST Council will take into account the revenue implications and the social impact of online gaming, and will ensure that the tax structure is fair and transparent for both the government and the industry.
Malhotra also revealed that the GST collection from online gaming companies has amounted to 34.7 billion rupees ($418 million) since the tax hike was implemented on October 1, 2023. He also said that the government expects to collect about 140 billion rupees ($1.9 billion) from online gaming companies in the next fiscal year.