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The Simplest Guide to GST for Freelancers in India
By Ritika Tiwari / July 13, 2017 / Comments: 114

Update on 9th January 2018- A new article about GST for Freelancers has been published to include all the new changes issued by the GST Committe and answer the most common questions asked by readers

This article has been updated on October 24, 2017, according to the new rules provided by the GST Committee.

Now you don’t need to register for GST, unless and until your turnover is more than 20 lacs in an year. If you have already registered, GST council will soon be making available a cancellation procedure

There has been a lot of confusion about GST for freelancers in India. I have personally received a lot of emails from freelance writers asking me about the same and I didn’t want to pen down an article about it without being 100% sure of all the facts.


Since it is replacing the service tax for a freelancer, the GST charges will be 18% of the total bill amount. Every invoice that you create will need to have 18% GST marked on it.

Is GST registration necessary for a freelancer?

Whether you are a freelance writer or a freelancer providing some other services. GST registration depends on the following factors:

  • Do you only an annual revenue of less than 20 lacs?

Registration not required.

  • Do you have an annual revenue of more than 20 lacs, despite of where your clients are located in India?

Registration required.

  • Do you have clients in a number of states across India and annual revenue less than 20 lacs?

Registration not required

  • Do you only have clients from overseas and you get payment through a foreign bank account, PayPal, or Western Union?

Registration not required, despite your income threshold.

As you can see, most freelancers have clients all over the country, that’s the whole idea behind freelancing. But that means, despite what you earn for freelancing, you will have to register for GST if your client is in a different state than you.

So, if a freelancer pays taxes in the state of Maharashtra but is working with a client registered in Tamil Nadu, then he will have to register for GST despite his annual income.

Should I charge GST from foreign clients as well?

No, you don’t need to charge GST on foreign client invoices. If the payment to your bank account is coming through a foreign bank account, then there is no need for any extra 18% GST charges. (Same applies to PayPal)

Who will pay for GST charges?

Your clients will and then you will pay the same to the government. You clients can claim it as tax credit when they file for taxes so that’s a win-win for everyone. Please do not pay for the GST charges yourself, even if your clients ask for a concession, because you will have to pay them back and your clients will still get tax credit for it.

How many returns would I have to file in an year?

37 in total. One annual return, and 3 returns per month.

So, that makes it 3×12 + 1 = 37 in total. Don’t worry, you don’t have to manually file these returns. You just have to ensure all your paperwork is in the right place and you have all your invoices with you, rest your CA can handle.

Will there be a change in invoicing?

Not really. You just have to ensure every invoice has a unique invoice number (I recommend using an invoicing software for that) and you have mentioned the GST charges along with your GST number in the invoice.

What if I don’t want to file for GST?

All this can be a lot for a freelancer who is still trying to find his ground and I get it. If I was asked to do so much work when I was starting out as a freelancer, I would have lost my mind. But if your long-term vision is to become a successful full-time freelancer, then you cannot run away from the government taxes.

Not to mention, if your client has filed for GST, deducting your TDS, and sending regular payments your way, then the government already knows you should have filed for GST and you haven’t. That is because your client lists you down as a freelancer or contractor when they file their TDS papers. Now if their bank account and yours is in a different state and your bank account is linked to your PAN card, then there is really no running from it.

At the end, either you would have to pay those 18% GST charges from your pocket or your client will forced to pay those even without you charging for it.

What should I do if my client doesn’t want to pay for GST charges?

First of all, you have to explain it to your client that they can get a tax credit for it when they file for taxes. So, the only clients who wouldn’t want to pay for GST charges are the ones who aren’t paying taxes or aren’t interested in paying you.

Will it affect my overall income?

Not at all. The extra GST charges are paid by your clients and you will still be getting paid exactly what you are charging as a freelancer.

t;font-weight: 400;”>If you think you can do all this manually in Microsoft Word or Excel, then you are greatly mistaken. Opt for an invoicing tool which supports adding taxes as well and generates unique invoice numbers so that you can easily edit or download the invoices for your own records.

Have any questions about GST for freelancers in India? Anything I forgot to mention? Feel free to comment below.


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114 Comments on "The Simplest Guide to GST for Freelancers in India"

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Shayaan Khan
Shayaan Khan
5 months 27 days ago

I’m about to release a video game which will generate revenue by Ads (so that will count as export). And if my turnover is less than 20lacs, and most probably it will be less than 20lacs, I won’t have to register according to your post.

But a post from Factor Daily says that, “If you are a service provider, ie blogger, and generating income from outside India (export of services), then GST registration is mandatory and exemption limit shall not apply,”

[Link redacted]
Are there two posts contradictory because the one from Factor daily is from June 2017?

Can you please clear my doubt?

narayan singh
narayan singh
6 months 10 days ago

Hi, I am working in IT with 30% taxable salary bracket. Now I am also in parallel working as a freelancer for US and taking work. My employer is deducting my 30% tax as per my salary. The question is how should I pay my taxes for the freelance work? Will that be 1- presumptive tax scheme 2 – 30% on my freelance income or 3 –
GST? Please help. How should I pay Thank you.

Kamini Verma
Kamini Verma
6 months 11 days ago

You have added to the confusion. In one para you write that for a freelance writer with clients in any part of India but with income below 20/10 lakhs need not register. But in the very next line you say that despite the earning” if your client is in a different state you have to register “

Please clarify

6 months 24 days ago

Iam a freelancer working for fully for an overseas client for constructing and setting up servers for mobile apps development.. the thing is Iam getting money via forex only with more than 20 lakhs per year as a turnover. so let me know whether i still need to register for GST and if needed to do so then is there any exemption for it?

7 months 17 days ago

Hi Ritika,

I am working as a contractor for a software company and they pay me <20lacs per year. I am not sure what they might be charging the client that I am working for. Its a foreign company they charge for me from. In this case, GST is applicable to my employer? They say that they are paying a heavy GST amount on behalf of me and so cant increase my pay.