Centre and States clear bulk of laws before roll out of GST

NEW DELHI: The Centre and states covered significant distance on the path towards rollout of goods and services tax (GST) when they cleared the bulk of laws for central and state GST. But the April 1, 2017, deadline for implementation of the country’s biggest indirect tax reform is almost ruled out as there was no headway on the contentious issue of division of administration.

The issue of so-called dual control and the related integrated GST (I-GST) law that deals with interstate sales will now be taken up at the next meeting of GST Council on January 3-4.

“I am trying my best to do that…left to myself I would like to do that,“ Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said when asked if the April 1 deadline can be met. He, however, pointed out that “reasonable headway“ had been made.

GST has to be rolled out by September 16 as the current tax regime will lapse by then. Briefing reporters on Friday at the end of the two-day GST Council meeting, Jaitley said draft Central GST (CGST) and State GST (SGST) laws, which are mirror images of each other, were cleared along with legislation for compensating states.

The laws will now be legally vetted after which the drafts will be sent to states for final views before they are passed by the council, the highest decision-making body for this tax regime.

“If you ask me what are the principle residuary items left, the main item of course is the I-GST and dual empowerment issue. The second is the legally vetted language which will be placed in the next meeting on January 3-4,“ Jaitley said.

Once these laws are passed by the council, the central GST law will go to Parliament for approval while state assemblies will need to clear the state GST law.

The GST Council will take up items in each tax bracket after the laws are cleared. On industry needing time after legislation is passed, Jaitley said, “That we will decide once we cross all bridges. I am not going to bind myself… our effort is to clear it as quickly as possible. I think we are making a reasonable headway .“

Experts felt the delay may even help.

“The GST Council seems to have made some good progress in terms of approving the CGST and compensation laws… However, now April 1, 2017, as the date of GST implementation is virtually ruled out, which I think is good news for both industry as well as the government,“ said Pratik Jain, partner and leader-indirect tax, PwC India.

COMPENSATION ISSUE

The settled issue of compensation to states for any loss of revenue due to the rollout of GST seems to have hit a bump with some members raising concern that more states may need to be compensated after demonetisation.

States were to be compensated from a Rs 55,000-crore fund set up from revenues raised through a cess on luxury and sin goods, such as tobacco. States have now sought a bigger pool for compensation citing potentially higher losses due to demonetisation.

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra said states may suffer revenue losses of 20-30% in the third and fourth quarter of the fiscal and the number of states needing compensation may go up due to demonetisation.

Andhra Pradesh has demanded that the compensation be given out from Consolidated Fund of India and not through a cess-funded pool.

As a compromise, the reworded formula may provide that the corpus for compensation may be funded through the proposed cess and “any other taxes as the GST Council decides“.The council also changed the frequency of compensation payout to bi-monthly from quarterly, as had been agreed upon earlier.

DUAL CONTROL

The issue of dual control is expected to be taken up at the next meeting. While states are keen on exclusive rights on all assessees up to a turnover of Rs 1.5 crore, the Centre is insisting on a vertical division minus any threshold. The issue is important to avoid dual control of an assessee by the Centre and a state government.

There is only one law and two bureaucracies, so the question is how the jurisdiction will be divided for audit management, Jaitley said when queried.

Credits ET Realty

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