In a significant ruling, the Karnataka High Court has dismissed a Goods and Services Tax (GST) notice issued to Gameskraft Technology, a Bengaluru-based online gaming company. The notice accused the company of evading Rs 21,000 crore in taxes, marking it as the largest claim of its kind in the history of indirect taxation. This verdict holds great significance for India's skill-gaming sector, which has been eagerly awaiting clarity on GST regulations. Let's delve into the details of this case, from its origins to the recent development.
The GST Notice and Allegations
The controversy began in September 2022 when a GST intelligence unit served a show-cause notice to Gameskraft Technology Private Limited (GTPL), alleging that the company had failed to pay the aforementioned sum in GST between 2017 and June 30, 2022. Authorities also accused GTPL of promoting online betting through various games like Rummy Culture, Gamezy, and Rummy Time. Additionally, officials claimed that the company had not been issuing invoices to its customers.
Authorities' Claims and Company's Defense
According to the authorities, GTPL facilitated betting by allowing players to place money stakes on the outcomes of card games played online. During the investigation, it was discovered that the gaming platform had submitted fake or backdated invoices. Moreover, officials alleged that the company induced customers to bet, as once money was added to the wallet, there were no means of returning it. As per a Moneycontrol report, Gameskraft argued in defense that its offerings constituted skill-based gaming activities, which should only be subject to an 18% GST on the platform fee. The company stated that it deducted this fee from the entry fees paid by players, which typically ranged from 5-15% of the contest entry amount. The remaining funds were directed toward the players' prize pool.
The Karnataka High Court's Verdict
On May 11, 2023, the Karnataka High Court quashed the GST notice against Gameskraft Technology, providing significant relief to the company and the entire online gaming industry. The court ruled that the tax authorities had not followed proper procedures in issuing the notice, and the alleged tax liability was based on incorrect interpretations of the law. This decision sets a precedent for the skill-gaming sector and offers much-needed clarity on GST regulations.
Implications and Future Outlook
The dismissal of the GST notice has relieved Gameskraft from the burden of massive alleged tax liability. GST officials had slapped a 28% tax on the betting amount of nearly Rs 77,000 crore. The court's ruling now clarifies that skill-based gaming activities are subject to an 18% GST on the platform fee, as argued by Gameskraft. This development paves the way for constructive dialogues between the company and GST authorities, potentially leading to progressive GST regulations for the industry. Gameskraft, with its portfolio of real-money gaming platforms like Rummyculture and Gamezy, can now focus on further expansion and innovation in the online gaming space.
The Karnataka High Court's decision to quash the Rs 21,000 crore GST notice against Gameskraft has brought a sigh of relief to the company and the online gaming industry. This ruling sets a precedent and offers much-needed clarity on GST regulations for skill-gaming platforms. As the industry continues to evolve, stakeholders are hopeful that this development will foster constructive dialogues and pave the way for progressive regulations in the future.