Articles

Simplicity, Uniformity Take a Back Seat Amid Frequent Tweaks in GST

by GK Sureka Social Media Manager
While rolling out the Goods and Service Tax (GST) from the central hall of Parliament at midnight of 30 June 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the nation that the new indirect tax system will unify its divergent state economies with ‘one nation, one tax’ right from Leh to Lakshadweep. About 18 months later, the biggest tax reform since India’s independence is still in a fluid state of continuous change as businesses, especially the small ones, struggle to cope with the rigours of a technology-driven and transparent tax system that has cast its net far and wide to bring at least 3.4 million new indirect taxpayers. 

Some of the concessions to small businesses announced earlier this month by federal indirect tax body, the GST Council, ahead of parliamentary polls due by April-May, raise fears about sacrificing some of the basic design advantages of GST over the previous regime— simplicity and uniformity. The changes imply that policymakers are still struggling to make the reform acceptable to a large number of small taxpayers without a backlash in a market where the culture of tax evasion is rampant.

GST REGISTRATION: The GST Council at its last meeting on 10 January decided to let states choose between two possible criteria—?20 lakh or ?40 lakh annual sales—for businesses to get GST registration as it could not arrive at a consensus on doubling the current threshold level to ?40 lakh for all. This brings back divergent tax base for states, somewhat similar to what existed in the pre-GST era where small businesses with sales ranging from ?5 lakh to ?40 lakh needed registration for value added tax (VAT) depending on the state.

“Having two state-specific turnover threshold limits can shake the foundations of GST. One can only hope that local businesses will put pressure on those states that refuse to raise the threshold, to eventually raise it to ?40 lakh and bring it at par with the other states,” said a member of the Council, who asked not to be named.

RETURN OF THE CESS: In the first case of introducing a state-specific cess to mobilize funds for reconstruction after a calamity, the Council allowed Kerala to levy a 1% additional tax on supplies within the state. Considering floods, cyclones, landslides and draught that occur in different parts of the country from time to time, this could set a precedent for other states to go for similar levies in addition to GST with the permission of the Council. “Though the cess is for a noble cause and for a limited period of up to two years in the case of Kerala, it dilutes the concept of ‘one nation, one tax’. Businesses have to make changes in their IT systems and in invoicing,” said Abhishek Jain, tax partner, EY India. 

REFORM GOALS ACHIEVED: GST has, however, helped in adding 3.4 million new indirect taxpayers, according to Economic Survey of FY18 and has helped in formalizing the economy. It has also improved transparency in the tax system and reduced the tax incidence on a host of products and services. This, despite the fact that the administration is not on a tax enforcement drive. The number of items in the highest slab of 28% has also been brought down. The Council is now working on using data from radio frequency identification tags attached to vehicles to verify whether e-way bills or electronic permits issued for goods shipment are misused. The idea is to collect data passively to check tax evasion and boost revenue receipts. 

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About GK Sureka Freshman   Social Media Manager

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Joined APSense since, November 17th, 2018, From Delhi NCR, India.

Created on Jan 23rd 2019 04:39. Viewed 140 times.

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