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GST E-Invoicing API : Who can get APIs of e-Invoices, Pre-requisites and Best Practices

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What does API mean and who can use these?

API (Application Programming Interface) is a software intermediary which allows two applications to interact with each other. With regard to the e-invoicing system, APIs facilitate the communication and exchange of data between taxpayers or GSPs (GST Suvidha Providers), and the e-invoice system. For the government to create a platform to provide GST services to taxpayers, two separate software components will need to nteract with each other as per the API specifications. The e-invoice system uses RESTful web services to provide various taxpayer functionalities such as filing of returns, registration, viewing ledgers, making online payments, etc. 

Latest Updates

Update as on 30th July 2020 1. A new refined format of e-invoice has been notified by CBIC adding 20 new fields and removing 13 fields. Certain fields have undergone changes in character length as well. 2. e-Invoicing system shall apply to those taxpayers with annual turnover exceeding Rs 500 crore instead of Rs 100 crore. 3. Special Economic Zones (SEZ) units shall also be exempted from issuing e-invoices. Update as on 23rd March 2020 The implementation of e-invoicing and the QR code has been deferred to 1st October 2020. Exemption from e-Invoicing and QR code has been granted to sectors such as insurance, banking, financial institutions, NBFCs, GTA, and passenger transportation service and movie tickets.

Users of API:

Taxpayers and GSPs can use API to adhere to various GST compliances. Listed below are the categories of taxpayers that need to use APIs to generate e-invoices:
Sr.No. Turnover in Previous FY Applicable Date
1 More than Rs 500 crores 1st October 2020 (Mandatory, with certain exemptions*)
2 More than Rs 100 crore but less than Rs 500 crore To be notified
3 More than Rs 100 crores To be notified
*Exemption from e-invoicing and QR code generation has been granted to sectors such as insurance and banking, financial institutions, NBFCs, GTA, passenger transportation services and movie tickets.

What is the purpose of using APIs under GST?

Taxpayers’ convenience is key for the successful implementation of GST. They can use third-party applications that provide a variety of interfaces on desktops, laptops and mobiles to connect with the GST filing system. These third-party applications connect with the GST filing system via GST APIs thus, enhancing the taxpayers’ convenience. Under e-invoicing, taxpayers will generate e-invoice under their respective ERP software and will report the same on the Invoice Registration Portal (IRP). The IRP has constructed the e-invoice process through an API mode. The GSPs/taxpayers can integrate these APIs into their existing ERPs and can generate e-invoice directly through their system. 

Types of APIs

At present, seven different APIs are available:
  1. Authentication 
  2. Generate Invoice Reference Number (IRN) 
  3. Cancel IRN 
  4. Get e-invoice details
  5. Generate e-way bill by IRN 
  6. Get GSTIN details 
  7. Cancel e-way bill 

How does API help in generating an e-invoice?

API plays an important role in the generation of an e-invoice. A taxpayer needs to enter the details of their invoice into their accounting system. The data is then sent through the API to the Invoice Registration Portal (IRP). The invoice gets registered under the IRP, an IRN gets generated, and the invoice is sent back to the taxpayer along with the digitally signed e-invoice and QR Code. The taxpayer’s system prepares the invoice for print, which contains the IRN and the QR Code embedded in it.

Prerequisites for using API for e-invoice

Following are the prerequisites to use e-invoicing APIs:
  1. Taxpayers/GSPs need to automate their process of invoice generation.
  2. It is a must for GSPs/taxpayers to ensure that the traffic originating from their end and landing to the e-invoice system is free from viruses, malware, intrusions, bots, etc. In case, NIC detects any malicious traffic, it may suspend the service.
  3. GSPs/taxpayers must adhere to all the IT Security standards and regulatory requirements as per the Government of India.
  4. GSPs/taxpayers should meet the security requirements as specified by http://www.cert-in.org.in/ for application and infrastructure.
  5. GSPs/taxpayers must comply with the Information Technology Act 2000 (including 43A) and the amendments thereof.
  6. Taxpayers/GSPs have to list at least four Indian Static IP addresses to access the production environment.
  7. Pre-production system for testing is a must in order to use different types of activities or services.
  8. GSPs/taxpayers will need to test their modified systems on the e-invoice pre-production site with all types of activities/services.

What happens when you use third-party applications for e-invoicing and in case, you have your own set-up?

There is a three-level interaction in case one uses application service providers (ASP) for generating IRN. The ASP pulls out invoice data from the client’s accounting or billing system and thereafter, puts the data in the required format to be sent to the IRP. The interaction happens via APIs. This model is comparatively an attractive option for most of the taxpayers due to the cost-effectiveness involved. On the other hand, if the taxpayer has his own ERP system that can interact with the IRP via APIs, it can easily communicate with IRP for the generation of IRNs. However, such a set-up is expensive.