The Rajya Sabha has cleared a  constitutional amendment to bring about a system of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India. It is perhaps the most important economic reform item on the Narendra Modi government’s agenda. This is one reform which affects all of us.

What is GST?

Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a value-added tax at each stage of the supply of goods and services precisely on the amount of value addition achieved. It seeks to eliminate inefficiencies in the tax system that result in ‘tax on tax’, known as cascading of taxes. GST is a destination-based tax on consumption, as per which the state’s share of taxes on inter-state commerce goes to the one that is home to the final consumer, rather than to the exporting state. GST has two equal components of central and state GST.

Who is liable to pay GST?

Businesses and traders with annual sales above Rs20 lakh are liable to pay GST. The threshold for paying GST is Rs10 lakh in the case of northeastern and special category states. GST is applicable on inter-state trade irrespective of this threshold.

Example Of GST Calculation

Let us assume that the GST is set at 20%. Suppose that the manufacturing cost of a Product A is 100 and assuming a GST of 20% the total amount is Rs. 120. The next step of taxation would be when the Product is sold to consumers, let’s say at a price of 150. So the GST will charge another 20% on just the difference of Rs. 150 and Rs. 120 i.e. only 20% on Rs. 30 which is equal to Rs. 6. So the final price is Rs. 150 + Rs. 6. Unlike the case of petrol pricing there is no tax on a tax now. This eliminates the cascading effect of taxes which is very prevalent in our economy and has been simplified to an elemental level in the example.

Since the GST will be applied at every step of value creation it will be very difficult for black money owners to participate anywhere in the value chain with the GST without accounting for all other transactions. The GST is estimated to provide an immediate boost of 0.9% – 1.4% of the GDP.

What are the products not part of GST?

Crude oil, diesel, petrol, natural gas and jet fuel are temporarily kept out of GST. The GST Council, the federal indirect tax body of state finance ministers chaired by the Union finance minister, will decide when to bring these items into GST. Liquor is kept out of GST as a constitutional provision and hence it would require an amendment to Constitution if it is to be brought into GST net.

What are the taxes that GST replaces?

The GST replaces numerous different indirect taxes such as:

  1. Central Excise Duty
  2. Service Tax
  3. Countervailing Duty
  4. Special Countervailing Duty
  5. Value Added Tax (VAT)
  6. Central Sales Tax (CST)
  7. Octroi
  8. Entertainment Tax
  9. Entry Tax
  10. Purchase Tax
  11. Luxury Tax
  12. Advertisement taxes
  13. Taxes applicable on lotteries.

How will it help consumers?

In GST, consumers should benefit in two ways.

First, all taxes will be collected at the point of consumption. It means that if a shirt is taxed at 18%, it will include both central government’s taxes and state government’s taxes. Transparency in taxation should deter governments from indiscriminately increasing taxes as there is bound to be public backlash.

Second, once barriers between states are removed, we as consumers will not end up paying “tax on tax” which is what happens when goods move across state borders.

When will GST be implemented?

Government may not be able to meet the initial GST implementation date of 1st April 2017. Its widely assumed that GST rollout will start only after 1 July 2017.

 

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