Goods and Services Tax

The introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a very significant step in the field of indirect tax reforms in India. By amalgamating a large number of Central and State taxes into a single tax, it would mitigate cascading or double taxation in a major way and pave the way for a common national market. During the previous tax regime, the Central Government used to levy tax on manufacture (Central Excise duty), provision of services (Service Tax), interstate sale of goods (CST levied by the Centre but collected and appropriated by the States) and the State Governments used to levy tax on retail sales (VAT), entry of goods in the State (Entry Tax), Luxury Tax, Purchase Tax, etc. It is clearly visible that there are multiplicities of taxes which are being levied on the same supply chain.

There is cascading of taxes, as taxes levied by the Central Government are not available as seto-against the taxes being levied by the State governments. Even certain taxes levied by State Governments are not allowed as set of or payment of other taxes being levied by them. Further, a variety of VAT laws in the country with disparate tax rates and dissimilar tax practices, divides the country into separate economic spheres. Creation of tari and non-tari barriers such as Octroi, entry Tax, Check posts etc. hinder the free w of trade throughout the country. Besides that, the large number of taxes creates high compliance cost for the taxpayers in the form of number of returns, payments etc.

All the taxes mentioned earlier have been subsumed in a single tax called the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which are to be levied on supply of goods or services or both at each stage of supply chain starting from manufacture or import and till the last retail level. So basically any tax that was levied by the Central or State Government earlier on the supply of goods or services has been converged into GST. Since the States are not empowered to levy any tax on the sale or purchase of goods in the course of their importation into or exportation from India, the Centre levies and collects this tax as additional duties of customs, which is in addition to the Basic Customs Duty. This additional duty of customs (commonly known as C VD and SAD) counter balances excise duties, sales tax, State VAT and other taxes levied on the like domestic product.

GST is proposed to be a dual levy where the Central Government will levy and collect Central GST (CGST) and the State will levy and collect State GST (SGST) on intra-state supply of goods or services. The Centre will also levy and collect Integrated GST (IGST) on inter-state supply of goods or services. Thus GST is a unit that is going to integrate various taxes being levied by the Centre and the State at present and provide a platform for forging an economic union of the country.

This tax reform will lead to creation of a single national market, common tax base and common tax laws for the Centre and States. Another very significant feature of GST will be that input tax credit will be available at every stage of supply for the tax paid at the earlier stage of supply. This feature would mitigate cascading or double taxation in a major way. This tax reform will be supported by extensive use of Information Technology [through Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN)], which will lead to greater transparency in tax burden, accountability of the tax administrations of the Centre and the States and also improve compliance levels at reduced cost of compliance for taxpayers. Studies indicate that introduction of GST would instantly spur economic growth and can potentially lead to additional GDP growth in the range of 1% to 2%.

The idea of moving towards the GST was first mooted by the then Union Finance Minister in his Budget for 2006-07. Initially, it was proposed that GST would be introduced from 1st April, 2010. The Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers (EC) which had formulated the design of State VAT was requested to come up with a roadmap and structure for the GST. Joint Working Groups of officials having representatives of the States as well as the Centre were set up to examine various aspects of the GST and draw up reports specifically on exemptions and thresholds, taxation of services and taxation of inter-State supplies. Based on discussions within and between it and the Central Government, the EC released its First Discussion Paper (FDP) on GST in November, 2009. This spells out the features of the proposed GST and has formed the basis for discussion between the Centre and the States so far.

The Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill was introduced in the 16th Lok Sabha on 19.12.2014. The Bill provides for a levy of GST on supply of all goods or services except for Alcohol for human consumption. The tax shall be levied as Dual GST separately but concurrently by the Union (central tax – CGST) and the States (including Union Territories with legislatures) (State tax – SGST) / Union territories without legislatures (Union territory tax- UTGST). The Parliament would have exclusive power to levy GST (integrated tax – IGST) on inter-State trade or commerce (including imports) in goods or services. The Central Government will have the power to levy excise duty in addition to the GST on tobacco and tobacco products. The tax on supply of five specified petroleum products namely crude, high speed diesel, petrol, ATF and natural gas would be levied from a later date on the recommendation of GST Council.

The Constitution Amendment Bill with certain amendments was ally passed in the Rajya Sabha and thereafter by Lok Sabha in August, 2016. Further the bill had been ratified by required number of States and received assent of the President on 8th September, 2016 and has since been enacted as Constitution (101st Amendment) Act, 2016 w.e.f. 16th September, 2016.

Written by princy

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