NEW DELHI: The draft goods & services tax (GST) law provides for tax rates in the legislation, partly addressing a key demand of Congress for a cap on the levy.
The law that’s in the works also suggests that all tax-related decisions will be under the purview of the proposed GST Council and that the states and the Centre will not be able to unilaterally exempt any good or service from the levy.
The law provides for full input tax credit flow, proposes a compounding scheme for turnover up to Rs 50 lakh and introduces the concept of tax on transaction value. This is absent in value-added and service taxes but is a feature of excise and customs duties.
“Work is going full throttle… The draft is being finalised,” said an official who is part of the deliberations on GST while confirming the broader details cited above.
The Narendra Modi government has been seeking to persuade Congress to drop its resistance to GST and help get parliamentary approvals needed so the April 1 deadline can be met for what is seen as a crucial economic reform. GST seeks to replace central and state taxes such as excise duty, service tax, value-added tax, entry tax and octroi with a single levy and create a unified national market.
Congress has set four conditions for backing the constitutional amendment Bill in Upper House, where the ruling dispensation does not have requisite numbers.
The main opposition party wants the rate to be capped at 18% in the Constitution and the 1% levy on inter-state sales to be scrapped. It also wants an independent disputesettlement mechanism and voting power of three-fourths for states in place of the two-thirds suggested. The government is not inclined to impose a constitutional cap on the rate, which will be difficult to change, but has instead provided for the levy in the GST law.
In at least two key areas, building a consensus would appear to have become simpler. A panel headed by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian has suggested a standard rate of 17-18% and recommended scrapping the 1% additional levy.
Talks with Congress likely soon
The recommendations provide the government with a good starting point for talks with Congress that are likely later this week. The draft law provides both rigidity and flexibility to GST framework by leaving decision-making with the GST Council, which is being proposed in the constitutional amendment Bill.
“This draft Act, though a work in progress, has finally given clarity regarding the structure and can be a good base for individual industries to assess the impact of GST on their business and represent to the government in case of issues,” EY Partner Bipin Sapra told ET.
Full input tax credit will also allow retailers to offset expenses against the total tax liability, such as that paid on a refrigerator in a chemist’s shop.
“Input tax credit provisions would be much broader and GST paid on any goods/services used in the course of, or in furtherance of, business would be allowed as credit.
This is good for businesses as their credit pool would be bigger and hopefully litigation would be reduced,” said Pratik Jain, partner, KPMG India. Under the current value-added tax regime, there is a compounding scheme for businesses below a turnover of Rs 50 lakh with a flat tax rate of 1% in many states.