The Congress on Wednesday called for bringing petroleum products and real estate under the ambit of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and said it would make a strong pitch for this at tomorrow’s GST Council meeting.
Punjab Finance Minister and Congress leader Manpreet Singh Badal said GST was projected as a regime that would usher in growth, but its “flawed” implementation had resulted in a fall in GDP and created an “economic mess”.
He said the country had lost the opportunity to usher in a one-tax regime because of the “faulty” implementation of GST that had also led to “chaos and negativity” among traders.
“It seems we have lost a golden opportunity to set our tax system right,” he told reporters.
Badal added that states had suffered revenue losses, and, citing the example of Punjab, claimed it had lost 40 per cent of its revenue since GST was implemented last July.
Fearing that there would be further chaos, the Congress leader urged the government not to rush through with changes in the GST Act that required constitutional amendments.
The changes now proposed were also being pushed without wider consultations with all stakeholders, he alleged.
“I understand most of the recommendations of the Committee set up to suggest reforms have been overruled,” Badal claimed.
He also held that the government proposed to bring up the e-way bill at tomorrow’s meeting. The bill would be required to transport any item worth over Rs 50,000 in the country.
But without wider consultations among stakeholders on this to ensure its smooth implementation, there would be further chaos, he warned.
“The Modi government has unleashed the most complex GST — ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ — and trade has not been able to file even one full cycle of returns. Frequent revisions in filing dates have completely shattered the faith in the sanctity of the GST reform,” he said.
On top of it, he said, the government was rolling out the e-way bill from February 1.
“We are not against the e-way bill, but it should not be introduced without adequate preparedness,” he added.
Badal said GST was projected as a measure that would lead to a growth in GDP and revenues, bring simplicity in compliances and lower prices.
“But a flawed implementation has failed on all accounts and GDP has fallen, revenues have shown an alarming fall, Inflation is rising and and there is a near furore relating to complexities in compliances,” he said.
On July 6, 2017, he said, former finance minister P Chidambaram had put forth the Congress’s demand that real estate and petroleum products be put under the GST’s ambit.
“Petrol and diesel prices are skyrocketing. The Modi government is profiteering at the expense of the common man. To provide relief to consumers, petroleum prices should be brought under the GST,” he said.
The Congress leader said GST revenues were in a state of constant decline with the latest numbers for November showing “abysmal collections” of Rs 80,800 crore.
Badal, however, said “a bad GST is better than no GST”, as 160 countries, including India’s neighbours, had a GST in place.
He said the future “sounds scary” in view of the extent of litigation that would arise out of the “ill-conceived provisions” put into effect in a hurry.
Unreasonable and multiple tax rates had brought a regime of “innumerable representations” that were multiplying every passing day.
“I’m also worried for our own revenues. Punjab has got a near 40 per cent gap in revenues and I don’t see that being met after the initial period of assured compensation is over.
“The need of the hour is have one holistic look at the reform in a spirit of genuine cooperative federalism, allowing all stakeholders adequate time to feel a part of the system and look at GST as a modern and simple tax reform that will rely on technology to reduce the cost of compliance,” he said.
Badal said hurried deadlines to meet political goals backed by “high voltage publicity” had put the nation at a stage where it would be very difficult to restore lost ground.