The Goods and Services Tax, the most sweeping tax reform since Independence, was set to be rolled out midnight Friday at a special ceremony in the Central Hall of Parliament in the presence of President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, ministers and a host of dignitaries.
The GST will replace more than a dozen central and state levies and bring the country under a common market, simplifying the tax structure and ensuring greater compliance.
As many as one crore traders and businessmen are expected to come under the GST ambit. Jayant Sinh, Minister of State in Finance before moving to Civil Aviation, said multiple rates were needed under the GST in efforts to ensure price stability and revenue neutrality.
The GST has four tax slabs — 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent. Speaking at a conclave on GST, organised by Aaj Tak, Sinha said the tax reform would make things easier. Currently, there are 80 lakh individuals and entities paying various central and state taxes, Sinha said.
Finance Minister Jaitley rejected the Opposition charge of the GST launch being a ‘self-promotion’, saying they should focus on mainstream rather than latching on to “fringe” issues. He appealed to the Congress, Left, TMC and RJD, who are boycotting the launch function, to rise above politics.
“Parties should rise above partisan politics. The Congress party had the opportunity to rise to the occasion. The challenge before the Congress party is now that they have to decide whether they will take fringe positions or willchoose mainstream position,” Jaitley said.
He said the midnight launch would go on despite some parties deciding not to participate. “Karvan toh chalta rahega (Caravan will keep moving). Those who won’t take part, would not stop it,” he said. “This is not self promotion. We have been saying this since the beginning that everyone has contributed to the GST. For the special session of Parliament, President and Vice-President were consulted.”
With PTI inputs