Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday introduced in Lok Sabha four bills on Goods and Services Tax, providing for a maximum GST rate of 40 per cent, an anti-profiteering authority and arrests for evading taxes. With this, rollout of GST – the biggest tax reform since independence – has entered the last lap and its passage by Parliament will pave the way for integrating India as one market with one rate of tax replacing multiple state and central levies.
Jaitley introduced a Central Goods and Service Tax or CGST bill which will amalgamate all the indirect central government levies like sales tax, service tax, excise duty, additional customs duty (Countervailing Duty), special additional duty of customs, surcharges and cesses.
CGST provides for a maximum tax of 20 per cent. Actual rates would however be a four-tier tax structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent as approved by the GST Council. The peak rate of 40 per cent is only an enabling provision for financial emergencies.
A Union Territory GST Bill will take care of taxation in UTs of Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. A Bill on Integrated-GST — to be levied and collected by the Centre on inter-state supply of goods and services, was also introduced in the Lok Sabha. The IGST law provides for a maximum tax of 40 per cent.
Jaitley also introduced a fourth legislation called GST (Compensation to States) Bill, 2017 that provides for mechanism for making good any loss of revenue of states from introduction of GST in first five years of rollout. These four bills will be taken up for discussion together.
Another mirror legislation of CGST, called State-GST, will amalgamate all state taxes like VAT, will be levied by states and has to be approved by all state legislatures. Together, CGST and SGST will enable the GST incidence of 40 per cent. GST will not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. The CGST Bill also provides for e-commerce companies to collect tax at source at a rate not exceeding 1 per cent of net value of taxable supplies, out of payments to suppliers supplying goods or services through their portals.
To protect small businesses, the CGST provides for a tax of no more than 1 per cent of turnover for manufacturers with annual turnover of up to Rs 50 lakh. A 2.5 per cent tax is prescribed for suppliers. To ensure that benefit of lower taxes is passed on to consumers, an anti-profiteering measure has been incorporated in the law.
It provides for constituting an Authority to examine whether input tax credits availed by any registered taxable person, or the reduction in the price on account of any reduction in the tax rate, have actually resulted in a commensurate reduction in the price of the said goods and/or services supplied by him. The law provides for arrest, ordered by no less than a Tax Commissioner, in case of suppression of any transaction or evading taxes. A person convicted is punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment and/or fine.
The Compensation Law provides for levy of cess on top of the peak rate of approved tax (28 per cent presently) on paan masala, tobacco, aerated waters, luxury cars and coal to create a non-lapsable fund for compensating states. Such cess has been capped at 135 per cent in case of paan masala, Rs 4,170 per thousand cigarettes sticks or 290 per cent ad valorem, Rs 400 per tonne on coal and 15 per cent on aerated water and luxury cars.
Compensation will be paid bi-monthly and the amount due would be calculated after considering a 14 per cent growth rate in taxes over the base year of 2015-16. Touted as the biggest taxation reform since independence, GST is expected to boost GDP growth by up to 2 per cent. The government proposes to roll out GST by July 1.
“The Integrated Goods and Services tax Bill provides for…tax on all inter-state supplies of goods and services or both except supply of alcoholic liquor for human consumption at a rate to be notified not exceeding 40 per cent, as recommended by the GST Council,” said the statements of objects and reasons of the IGST bill. The 40 per cent would be apportioned equally between the Centre and the states.
As Jaitley introduced the bills in the Lok Sabha, Opposition, Congress and TMC, protested saying it was not listed in today’s agenda for the House. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs S S Ahluwalia said the bills were uploaded on the government website on the midnight of Friday. The Opposition MPs, however, took strong objection saying how could the government expect the members to check the website at midnight and why the issue was not discussed at the meeting of Business Advisory Committee last week.
Dismissing the opposition objections, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the bills were sent to the MPs on Saturday morning and there was nothing wrong in these being tabled. The GST Council, comprising Union Finance Minister and his state counterparts, has already approved the 4 legislations over a series of 12 meetings. The Council will meet again on March 31, and will finalise the rules and formats for the new indirect tax regime.
Deloitte Haskins Sells LLP Senior Director M S Mani said the introduction of the bills “mark the successful culmination of a series of steps taken by the government since August 2016 and it now appears certain that India is headed for a GST rollout from July 2017”.