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Goods and Services Tax, image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi, March 29, 2017: After an 8-hour long debate, The Lok Sabha passed all four bills corresponding to GST or Goods and Services Tax crucial to the launch from July 1 of the country’s biggest tax reform since Independence. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defended the four-slab structure, and said that without it the taxing system would be regressive.

The bills passed on Wednesday are the Central GST bill, the Integrated GST bill, the Union Territories GST bill and the compensation law.

Pitching it as a “unique experience of Indian legislatures,” Finance Minister initiated the debate saying, “These are revolutionary bills which will benefit all. States have pooled in their sovereignty into the GST council, and centre has done the same”.

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The Congress remonstrated with Jaitely alleging the practicality of the bills are far from the government’s claim of “one nation, one tax”, referring to the GST’s four-slab structure.

Countering the opposition’s objection to a GST with multiple rate slabs, the Finance Minister said, “If there are no multiple rates, it will become a highly regressive tax… Some goods are essential for the poor.” To illustrate his point he said, “A BMW and Hawai chappal (slippers) can’t have the same tax. What is the good, who uses it, matters.”

GST bills comprise 4 slabs of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. The government has set the maximum GST rate at 40% and introduced provisions for an anti-profiteering authority and arrests for evading taxes.

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Senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily objected to the anti-profiteering clause in the Bill, calling it “far too draconian”. The Opposition had also expressed concerns about how the Bills were introduced in Parliament on Monday.

Senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily called down the anti-profiteering provision in the Bill, calling it “far too draconian”. The Opposition had additionally communicated worries about how the Bills were introduced in Parliament on Monday.

Speaking during the debate, the former law minister Veerappa Moily accused the BJP of costing India 12 lakh crores by opposing the reform when it was initiated by his party when it ruled at the centre. He criticized various provisions in the bills and said the BJP’s effort was “not a game-changer, but only a baby step.”

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Commenting at the ‘anti-profiteering provision’ in the Bill, the senior Congress leader called it down as “far too draconian”. The Opposition had additionally communicated worries about how the Bills were introduced in Parliament on Monday.

Mr Moily also accused the government of undermining the Rajya Sabha or Upper House. “The Upper House is the council of states, yet it has no right to discuss crucial bills. This is an assault on federal structure – I say that all members of the Rajya Sabha must resign,” he said.

Because the four bills have been presented as “money bills”, the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority, can only suggest changes. These will be brought back to the Lok Sabha, which can choose to accept or reject them.

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In the defense of accusations labeled by Mr Moily, Finance Minister said that the government has emphasized that it wants the GST bills to be passed in parliament with the consensus of all the members of Parliament.

“States have pooled in their sovereignty into the GST Council, and the Centre has done the same. The council held 12 meetings to make it a process based on consensus and recommendations,” Jaitley said.

The one-nation, one-tax policy of GST is expected to boost the rate of economic growth by about 0.5 percentage points, broaden the revenue base and cut compliance cost for firms.

-prepared by Ashish Srivastava of NewsGram Twitter @PhulRetard


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