GST now a step closer to July deadline: Council clears all 9 rules to push tax reform
The Centre currently exempts 299 items while states keep 99 out of the tax net. “Some items will remain exempted,” said a top government official.
Tariffs for about 1150 items was finalised at the meeting.
The nine rules deal with registration, return, refund, composition, transition, invoice, payment, input tax credit, valuation have been cleared.
The two-day meeting began here in Srinagar to finalise the nuts and bolts of the new tax framework, proposed to be rolled out from July.
The council has begun discussion on the list of items that will attract 0 per cent GST. Most states have pitched for keeping items sensitive to their states out of the list. For example Uttar Pradesh wants Puja material out of tax net. Some other states want cotton yarn and silk yarn out.
The Centre is keen on keeping the list small as a large list of exemptions would hurt the objective of base expansion. Exemption of essential services will also be discussed. The Council also discussed exemptions and items in the 5% slab. All raw food items, including foodgrains to be exempt. Processed food of daily needs to be in the 5% slab.
If you are catching up now, here's a primer
1.What’s so good about the new tax?
Those 17 or more state and federal levies on everything from electricity to Gucci handbags complicate efforts to sell products to India’s population of 1.3 billion (about four times bigger than the U.S.). Under the current system, a product will be taxed multiple times and at different rates. Every day, for instance, more than 20,000 truck drivers wait in queues up to three kilometers (1.8 miles) long to pay an entry fee at the New Delhi checkpoints, with food rotting, tempers fraying and costs rising. In another change, the GST will apply to goods at the point of consumption, rather than where they are produced. That will reduce the cascading effect of taxes, allowing producers to easily claim credits and minimising the opportunity for corruption.
2.What gets taxed, and at what rate?
The tax will comprise four basic rates: 5 percent, 12 percent, 18 percent and 28 percent. While officials are yet to reveal final details of what will fall into each bracket, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said 50 percent of items in the retail inflation basket won’t be taxed in order to protect consumers from price rises on basics such as food grains. As well as those four rates, there’ll be higher rates for tobacco products (65 percent) and luxury goods.
3. Is there a downside to so many rates?
Most countries use a single rate applied to virtually all goods. Critics say this complex system increases the chances of companies and consumers trying to game the system, as well as adding to the workload of bureaucrats.
4.Will the tax impact the economy?
Citigroup’s economists say countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand experienced a one-time bump in inflation after introducing GST but that prices soon normalised. Looking at the wider economy, the GST could lift growth by as much as 2 percentage points, according to Jaitley. Greater tax compliance and efficiency has the potential to increase government revenue, helping narrow Asia’s widest budget deficit and freeing up funds for schools and highways. And by streamlining the process of buying and selling stuff, the government is betting on a boost to Modi’s "Make in India" manufacturing push.
5.What about the businesses themselves?
Companies will have to overhaul their accounting systems, which may involve one-time investment costs. Logistics firms stand to gain as it becomes easier to ferry goods across India. Other winners and losers will be determined by those rulings on which goods belong in which tax bracket -- and by any exemptions included in the fine print.
6.Do many other countries use this type of tax?
India will join 160 nations that have a value-added tax, including Poland, Canada and Japan. At the top rate, India’s GST will be among the highest. And with 29 states, 22 official languages and 9 million businesses, the logistics of overhauling India’s tax system are likely to make any tax changes by U.S. President Donald Trump look easy by comparison.