GST fizz yet to settle: Restaurants, stores charge diff tax on colas


Nagpur: The government’s move to tax fizzy drinks at 40% under Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime is being defeated at food joints, including branded chains. The peak GST rate of 28% is applicable to these drinks, with further 12% cess. The special cess is charged on select goods like cars, tobacco products, cigars as well as carbonated cold drinks like Coke or Pepsi, to discourage consumption.

However, if you buy a 600ml bottle of a cola brand in a food joint, the cost is Rs60, with GST component cited at 18%. But the same sized bottle is available in a departmental store for Rs35, though the GST cited is 40%.

The MRP has not been changed at both places, so this situation makes no difference to the consumer. However, experts say the whole idea of having a higher tax on the drinks is being defeated. The peak rate is one of the measures to discourage consumption of such drinks considering their ill effect on health. Apart from this, the 12% cess, which goes to the Centre, is used to compensate states to make good the shortfall in revenue after shifting to GST.

TOI purchased a bottle of Coke and Pepsi from a Dominos outlet and a Big Bazaar store respectively. The bottles cost Rs60 along with 18% tax at Dominos, and Rs35 inclusive of 40% tax at Big Bazaar.

Food joints generally charge a higher rate to account for other services provided along with the product. Experts say this is because food joints include the drinks as a part of services offered from their end. The 18% GST applicable to their category of businesses is added on as the tax.

Malls and other outlets, on the other hand, sell carbonated drinks as individual products. So, the specific GST rate of 40% applicable on carbonated drinks is cited at such places.

Pritam Mahure, a chartered accountant and GST practitioner from Pune, said the practice has been seen in other parts of the country too. Covered under Schedule IV, colas attracts 14% state and central GST each, apart from 12% cess. “World over, soft drinks are considered to be sin goods, and taxed at a higher rate in order to discourage consumption. Even when served in a restaurant, its nature as a sin good may not undergo any change, and the specified rate of 40% should be charged,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson of Coca Cola told TOI that GST has led to a 6% increase in tax component for carbonated drinks. The company intends to absorb the impact as much as possible. If at all there is a need to increase the rates, it would be minimal, he said.
 The company also makes the Kinley brand of bottled water. The tax component on this product has gone down, and the benefit will be passed on to consumers, he said. Apart from this, the company is also planning to come up with a new category of product, which would be known as value-added water, he said.


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