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GST’s outcome: 2017 registered as the most significant year for economy since Independence

The new indirect tax regime unifying the Indian market has four tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent.

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Earlier this year, World Bank announced that India had jumped 30 places in its Ease of Doing Business rankings
Earlier this year, World Bank announced that India had jumped 30 places in its Ease of Doing Business rankings
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New Delhi, Dec 25: The 70th year since Independence will go down in Indian history since the country switched over to the  (GST) regime, realising, thereby, the vision of a unified market in a federal system that guided the nationalist bourgeoisie in joining Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle to liberate India from the British.

Of course, the structural reform came accompanied by pain for trade and industry caught off-guard by the rigours of new compliance procedures. Queried by corporate leaders at industry chamber Ficci’s 90th AGM here earlier this month on how GST was impacting through lower tax collections, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley put the onus on them.

“It is you from industry, who have been calling for so long to bring GST… and no sooner do these initial problems in implementing a reform of such scale appear, then you want to go back to the system we’ve had for 70 years,” he said.

The earlier system was a myriad of central and state taxes where the movement of goods was slowed down by-products being taxed multiple times and at different rates.

State level taxes replaced by the pan-India GST include state cesses and surcharges, luxury tax, state VAT, purchase tax, central sales tax, taxes on advertisements, entertainment tax, various forms of entry tax, and taxes on lotteries and betting.

Central taxes replaced by GST are service tax, special additional customs duties (SAD), additional excise duties on goods of special importance, central excise, additional customs duties, excise on medicinal and toilet preparations, additional excise duties on textiles and textile products, and cesses and surcharges.

The new indirect tax regime unifying the Indian market has four tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent.

It has a novel feature whereby goods and services providers get the benefit of input tax credit for the goods used, effectively making the real incidence of taxation lower than the headline taxation rate.

Indian economy has surged many folds after the introduction of new tax structure
Indian economy has surged many folds after the introduction of new tax structure

The second half of the year saw a radical reworking of the items within the four-slab tax structure by the supremely federal institution of the GST Council, whereby all but 50 of over 1,200 items remained in the highest 28 per cent bracket. Those retained included luxury and sin items, the cess on which goes to fund the compensation to states for the loss of revenue arising from implementing GST.

With the Council’s decisions last month, GST has been cut on a host of consumer items such as chocolates, chewing gum, shampoos, deodorants, shoe polish, detergents, nutrition drinks, marble and cosmetics. Luxury goods such as washing machines and air conditioners have been retained at 28 per cent.

Eating out has become cheaper as all restaurants outside high-end hotels charging over Rs 7,500 per room will uniformly levy GST of five per cent. The facility of input tax credit for restaurants has, however, been withdrawn as they had not passed on this benefit to consumers.

Petroleum, including oil and gas, is a strategic sector that is still not under GST, while the industry has been pushing for its inclusion so as not to be deprived of the benefits of input credit.

Including real estate is another matter pending before the GST Council.

On the functioning of the Council, Jaitley who is its head had this remarkable insight about the way in which it had effected such large-scale rationalisation of the item rates in a short span of “3-4 months”.

“Everything has been achieved by consensus in the best spirit of cooperative federalism. There has been no politics, even from states which are controlled by opposition parties,” he told a gathering of industry leaders here.

The other side of GST was revealed through what the International Monetary Fund described as “short-term disruptions”.

With businesses going into a “de-stocking” mode on inventories in anticipation of the GST rollout from July and sluggish manufacturing growth, among other factors, pulled down growth in the Indian economy during the first quarter of this fiscal to 5.7 per cent, clocking the lowest under the Narendra Modi dispensation. Breaking a five-quarter slump, a rise in manufacturing sector output, however, pushed the growth rate higher to 6.3 per cent during the second quarter (July-September) of 2017-18.

Besides, technical glitches appearing on the GST Network portal, often unable to take a load of the last-minute rush to file returns, marred the filing of returns by traders, forcing the government to postpone filing deadlines several times. The glitches also led to export refunds piling up, resulting in a grave situation of the cash crunch for exporters, whose working capital was getting blocked.

In the final analysis, the GST balance sheet is provided by Gita Gopinath, Professor of International Studies and Economies at Harvard University, who is also the economic adviser to the Kerala Chief Minister.

“GST is a real reform. It is a way of formalising the economy. It is a very effective way of ensuring tax compliance, making it harder to earn black money. I mean, nothing ever goes away completely, but it just makes it harder to make it happen,” Gopinath said in Mumbai earlier this month. 

The icing on the cake came with the World Bank announcing earlier this year that India had jumped 30 places in its Ease of Doing Business rankings to get among the top 100 countries on the list. Though reforms in India’s direct tax regime figured among the parameters considered in the evaluation, GST had not been taken into account by the multilateral agency since their cut-off date was June 30. IANS

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GST Council to Introduce New Method of Return Filing in Six Months

"The committee will examine how these contingencies to be addressed by the GST regime. Its constitution will be announced in the next two days," he said.

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The GST Council on Friday decided to roll out in six months a new method of filing monthly returns and to take over ownership of the GST Network (GSTN), even as it deferred a decision on imposing a sugar cess and allowing an incentive for digital payments.
GST in India, Wikimedia commons

The GST Council on Friday decided to roll out in six months a new method of filing monthly returns and to take over ownership of the GST Network (GSTN), even as it deferred a decision on imposing a sugar cess and allowing an incentive for digital payments.

Briefing reporters here following the 27th meeting of the GST Council, the Chairman and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Council had decided to set up two separate groups of five Finance Ministers of states to give recommendations both on the imposition of a cess on sugar as well as a 2 per cent incentive for making payments digitally.

“The GST Council discussed the change in ownership structure of GSTN. As per the original structure of GSTN, 49 per cent is held by the government and balance 51 per cent by other entities,” Jaitley said.

“I had made a suggestion that this shareholding of 51 per cent should be taken over by the government and divided equally between the states and the Centre.

“Eventually, the central government should hold 50 per cent and states will hold 50 per cent collectively. The collective share of states will be pro-rata divided among them per their GST ratios,” he added.

The GST Council on Friday decided to roll out in six months a new method of filing monthly returns and to take over ownership of the GST Network (GSTN), even as it deferred a decision on imposing a sugar cess and allowing an incentive for digital payments.
GST Filing, Pixabay

Noting that sugarcane farmers are in deep distress due to rise in costs, Jaitley said the Council decided to constitute a group of five ministers within two days to make a recommendation on ways to meet contingency arising when the cost of a commodity is higher than its selling price. The committee will submit its report within two weeks keeping in view the urgency of the matter, Jaitley said.

“The committee will examine how these contingencies to be addressed by the GST regime. Its constitution will be announced in the next two days,” he said.

A separate group of five ministers from states will be constituted in two days to recommend a 2 per cent concession, subject to a ceiling of Rs 100 per transaction, to consumers if they pay through digital modes. This report will be submitted before the next GST Council meeting.

“The issue before the council as whether on digital payments through either the banking mode or the cheque mode or any form of digitised mode, a two percent incentive should be given to those who pay entirely through digitised mode. This would be subject to a cap of Rs 100 per voucher and would not apply to the composition dealers,” the Minister said.

Also Read: To Review The Existing Framework of MIIs, SEBI Puts Forward Higher Regulatory Requirement

The Council on Friday also approved the new simplified model of filing returns, to be implemented after six months, providing for one monthly return for all taxpayers, except composition dealers and those with nil tax liability.

“Composition dealers and dealers having nil transaction shall have facility to file quarterly return,” Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said elaborating on the new model.

He said the six-month transition phase is required to get the new software ready, during which the present system of filing GSTR 3B and GSTR 1 returns would continue, adding that taxpayers could continue to claim provisional credit in this period. (IANS)