11 Nov 2009

Discussion paper on GST unveiled

Some time back we had written a paper and also on this blog on the proposed harmonized indirect tax regime titled 'GST' and the ideas we had anticipated have now seen the light of the day with the Government unveiling the first draft of the proposed Goods and Service Tax (GST). Yesterday the Finance Minister along with the Chairman of the Empowered Committee of Finance Ministers released the first official draft for public opinion and reflecting the consensus achieved till date on the most ambitious indirect tax reform contemplated till date.

To go back, on the central level the excise duty model was simplified by introduction of VAT model through the so-called 'MODVAT' rules in 1986 which was further simplified and harmonized in 2002 (renamed as CENVAT) and then again in 2004 to align credit mechanism of excise duty on goods produced and tax on services. On the state front, reforms have ranged from elimination of variances in levies between states and a uniform adoption of the VAT model after the release of the white paper in 2005. It was in 2007 that the then FM had stated in the Parliament his intent to move to GST and gave a similar commitment to the WTO. The responsible officials have undoubtedly worked hard to atleast bring all on a common platform as far as the present harmonized exercise is concerned.

The first draft (you may have a look here) enunciates the principles on which the proposed law would be framed. It further delineates various other silent features of the envisaged model. As the paper itself states, "The Discussion Paper is divided into four sections. Since GST would be further improvement over the VAT, Section 1 begins with a brief reference to the process of introduction of VAT at the Centre and the States and also indicates the precise points where there is a need for further improvement. This section also shows how the GST can bring about this improvement. With this as the background for justification of GST, Section 2 then describes the process of preparation for GST. Thereafter, Section 3 presents in detail the comprehensive structure of the GST model. For illustrating this GST model further, there is in the end an Annexure on Frequently Asked Questions and Answers."

The salient features of the proposed model are stated in the discussion paper as under;

(i) The GST shall have two components: one levied by the Centre (hereinafter referred to as Central GST), and the other levied by the States (hereinafter referred to as State GST). Rates for Central GST and State GST would be prescribed appropriately, reflecting revenue considerations and acceptability. This dual GST model would be implemented through multiple statutes (one for CGST and SGST statute for every State). However, the basic features of law such as chargeability, definition of taxable event and taxable person, measure of levy including valuation provisions, basis of classification etc. would be uniform across these statutes as far as practicable.
(ii) The Central GST and the State GST would be applicable to all transactions of goods and services made for a consideration except the exempted goods and services, goods which are outside the purview of GST and the transactions which are below the prescribed threshold limits.
(iii) The Central GST and State GST are to be paid to the accounts of the Centre and the States separately. It would have to be ensured that account-heads for all services and goods would have indication whether it relates to Central GST or State GST (with identification of the State to whom the tax is to be credited).
(iv) Since the Central GST and State GST are to be treated separately, taxes paid against the Central GST shall be allowed to be taken as input tax credit (ITC) for the Central GST and could be utilized only against the payment of Central GST. The same principle will be applicable for the State GST. A taxpayer or exporter would have to maintain separate details in books of account for utilization or refund of credit. Further, the rules for taking and utilization of credit for the Central GST and the State GST would be aligned.
(v) Cross utilization of ITC between the Central GST and the State GST would not be allowed except in the case of inter-State supply of goods and services under the IGST model which is explained later.
(vi) Ideally, the problem related to credit accumulation on account of refund of GST should be avoided by both the Centre and the States except in the cases such as exports, purchase of capital goods, input tax at higher rate than output tax etc. where, again refund/adjustment should be completed in a time bound manner.
(vii) To the extent feasible, uniform procedure for collection of both Central GST and State GST would be prescribed in the respective legislation for Central GST and State GST.
(viii) The administration of the Central GST to the Centre and for State GST to the States would be given. This would imply that the Centre and the States would have concurrent jurisdiction for the entire value chain and for all taxpayers on the basis of thresholds for goods and services prescribed for the States and the Centre.
(ix) The present threshold prescribed in different State VAT Acts below which VAT is not applicable varies from State to State. A uniform State GST threshold across States is desirable and, therefore, it is considered that a threshold of gross annual turnover of Rs.10 lakh both for goods and services for all the States and Union Territories may be adopted with adequate compensation for the States (particularly, the States in North-Eastern Region and Special Category States) where lower threshold had prevailed in the VAT regime. Keeping in view the interest of small traders and small scale industries and to avoid dual control, the States also considered that the threshold for Central GST for goods may be kept at Rs.1.5 crore and the threshold for Central GST for services may also be appropriately high. It may be mentioned that even now there is a separate threshold of services (Rs. 10 lakh) and goods (Rs. 1.5 crore) in the Service Tax and CENVAT.
(x) The States are also of the view that Composition/ Compounding Scheme for the purpose of GST should have an upper ceiling on gross annual turnover and a floor tax rate with respect to gross annual turnover. In particular, there would be a compounding cut-off at Rs. 50 lakh of gross annual turn over and a floor rate of 0.5% across the States. The scheme would also allow option for GST registration for dealers with turnover below the compounding cut-off.
(xi) The taxpayer would need to submit periodical returns, in common format as far as possible, to both the Central GST authority and to the concerned State GST authorities.
(xii) Each taxpayer would be allotted a PAN-linked taxpayer identification number with a total of 13/15 digits. This would bring the GST PAN-linked system in line with the prevailing PAN-based system for Income tax, facilitating data exchange and taxpayer compliance.
(xiii) Keeping in mind the need of tax payer’s convenience, functions such as assessment, enforcement, scrutiny and audit would be undertaken by the authority which is collecting the tax, with information sharing between the Centre and the States.
The discussion paper also lists the existing taxes which would be replaced/subsumed by GST;
On the central level;
(i) Central Excise Duty
(ii) Additional Excise Duties
(iii) The Excise Duty levied under the Medicinal and Toiletries Preparation Act
(iv) Service Tax
(v) Additional Customs Duty, commonly known as Countervailing Duty (CVD)
(vi) Special Additional Duty of Customs - 4% (SAD)
(vii) Surcharges, and
(viii) Cesses.
On the State level;
(i) VAT / Sales tax
(ii) Entertainment tax (unless it is levied by the local bodies).
(iii) Luxury tax
(iv) Taxes on lottery, betting and gambling.
(v) State Cesses and Surcharges in so far as they relate to supply of goods and services.
(vi) Entry tax not in lieu of Octroi.
Further, while alcohol and petroleum products have been kept outside GST, tobacco would be included in the GST chain. The paper also notes and discusses various other aspects such as Inter-State Transactions of Goods and Services; proposed rate structure (which seems yet to be finalized); Zero Rating of Exports; GST on imports; Special Industrial Area Schemes; Constitutional Amendments, Legislations and Rules for administration; Dispute Resolution and Advance Ruling; compensation for States etc.

One can only hope that the new law would be unveiled soon and the consumers trotting under the cascading effects would feel the dead-weight of taxes to be reduced. All the best to those behind the show !!!

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