Goods and Services Tax (India)

Goods and Services Tax (India):

Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an indirect tax levied in India on the sale of goods and services. Goods and services are divided into five tax slabs for collection of tax – 0%, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. Petroleum products and Alcoholic drinks are taxed separately by the individual state governments. There is a special rate of 0.25% on rough precious and semi-precious stones and 3% on gold.[1] In addition a cess of 22% or other rates on top of 28% GST applies on few items like aerated drinks, luxury cars and tobacco products.[2]

The tax came into effect from July 1, 2017 through the implementation of one hundred and first amendment by the Government of India. The tax replaced existing multiple cascading taxes levied by the central and state governments. The tax rates, rules and regulations are governed by the Goods and Services Tax Council which comprises of finance ministers of centre and all the states. GST simplified a slew of indirect taxes with a unified tax and is therefore expected to dramatically reshape the country’s 2 trillion dollar economy.[3]

Formation:

The reform process of India’s indirect tax regime was started in 1986 by Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Finance Minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s government, with the introduction of the Modified Value Added Tax (MODVAT). Subsequently, Manmohan Singh,and the Finance Minister P V Narasimha Rao, initiated early discussions on a Value Added Tax at the state level.[4] A single common “Goods and Services Tax (GST)” was proposed and given a go-ahead in 1999 during a meeting between the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his economic advisory panel, which included three former RBI governors IG Patel, Bimal Jalan and C Rangarajan. Vajpayee set up a committee headed by the thenfinance minister of West Bengal, Asim Dasgupta to design a GST model.[5]

The Ravi Dasgupta committee was also tasked with putting in place the back-end technology and logistics (later came to be known as the GST Network, or GSTN, in 2017) for rolling out a uniform taxation regime in the country. In 2002, the Vajpayee government formed a task force under Vijay Kelkar to recommend tax reforms. In 2005, the Kelkar committee recommended rolling out GST as suggested by the 12th Finance Commission.[5]

After the fall of the BJP-led NDA government in 2004, and the election of a Congress-led UPA government, the new Finance Minister P Chidambaram in February 2006 continued work on the same and proposed a GST rollout by 1 April 2010. However in 2010, with the Trinamool Congress routing CPI(M) out of power in West Bengal, Asim Dasgupta resigned as the head of the GST committee. Dasgupta admitted in an interview that 80% of the task had been done.[5]

In 2014, the NDA government was elected into power, this time under the leadership of Narendra Modi. With the consequential dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha, the GST Bill – approved by the standing committee for reintroduction – lapsed. Seven months after the formation of the Modi government, the new Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the GST Bill in the Lok Sabha, where the BJP had a majority. In February 2015, Jaitley set another deadline of 1 April 2017 to implement GST. In May 2016, the Lok Sabha passed the Constitution Amendment Bill, paving way for GST. However, the Opposition, led by the Congress, demanded that the GST Bill be again sent back to the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha due to disagreements on several statements in the Bill relating to taxation. Finally in August 2016, the Amendment Bill was passed. Over the next 15 to 20 days, 18 states ratified the GST Bill and the President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to it.[6][7]

A 22-members select committee was formed to look into the proposed GST laws.[8] State and Union Territory GST laws were passed by all the states and Union Territories of India except Jammu & Kashmir, paving the way for smooth rollout of the tax from 1 July 2017.[9] the Jammu and Kashmir state legislature passed its GST act on 7 July 2017, thereby ensuring that the entire nation is brought under an unified indirect taxation system. There was to be no GST on the sale and purchase of securities. That continues to be governed by Securities Transaction Tax (STT).[10]

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