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While there has never been any disagreement between the central and state governments on the benefits of a comprehensive Goods and Services Tax (GST) to replace the complex indirect tax system currently in operation, differences on a number of issues have meant that a proposal announced in the 2007-08 Budget has taken more than seven years to fructify into another legislative bill on GST. The introduction of the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014 in the Lok Sabha in the winter session to facilitate introduction of the GST regime from 1 April 2016 indicates some progress. But given past experience, one is dubious about what could finally happen to the bill, especially because there remains an ambivalence on a number of contentious issues, including the all important one of the rate of the new tax. In spite of the unresolved issues another bill has been drafted, the expectation seems to be that, however imperfect, enactment of the legislation would simplify the tax system, end the cascading effect of current taxation, foster development of a common domestic market, and result in revenue buoyancy and higher growth of the economy.
The 2014 bill visualises a dual GST that would be levied both by the centre and the states on an overlapping tax base. It provides simultaneous power to union and state legislatures to legislate on the GST. The centre would levy a Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST), the states a State Goods and Services Tax (SGST), and the centre would levy and collect the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) on all interstate supply of goods and services, and distribute the IGST proceeds among the states. The GST Bill seeks to create a system of seamless flow of input tax credit from one state to another. A GST Council will be established, with the union finance minister as the chairman and state finance ministers as members. The critical roles of the council, as envisaged, will be to make recommendations on tax rates, exemptions and threshold limits, and resolve disputes.
All goods and services other than alcohol (for human consumption) are to be under the GST which is a welcome move to reduce selectivity in taxation in a GST regime. The draft legislation proposes that the rate of the GST will be uniform across the country with a circumscribed amount of flexibility to vary the CGST and SGST rates within a narrow tax band above a floor rate. A uniform rate across the country appeals to trade and industry. However, the question is if such harmonisation should be at the cost of fiscal autonomy. If the need to develop a common market dictates such a harmonisation, what is the extent of autonomy that a state should agree to surrender when deciding on the extent of variation in a narrow band? A state’s ability to levy a tax should mean the ability to fix the tax rate as well. In order to harmonise rates, the power to fix tax rates is to be given up almost entirely under the proposed legislation. It needs to be noted that tax harmonisation does not only mean harmonisation of rates but harmonisation of many other processes within the tax system to facilitate easy tax compliance by business and industry. A uniform rate is no guarantee of creation of a common market, if the tax compliance processes remain very intricated and different across states.
A huge compromise in the design of the GST is the proposal to impose a “non-VATable” additional tax of not more than 1% on the supply of goods in the course of interstate trade. This tax is to be collected for a period not exceeding two years, or for longer as recommended by the GST Council. This essentially means the current origin-based distortionary Central Sales Tax (CST) system will continue in the initial years of GST if not abolished after two years, resulting in pronounced tax exportation from the richer producing states to the poorer consuming states. In the event of revenue loss to the states – a contentious issue on which the states have stalled agreement on the GST so far – it has been proposed that the central government will provide compensation for up to five years, with the compensation on a tapering basis, 100% for the first three years, 75% in the fourth year and 50% in the fifth year.
On the basis of the above passage, answer the following questions :
- As per passage, the enactment of Goods and Services Tax (GST) would lead to which of the following?
a.Simplification of taxation system
b.End of cascading effects of current taxation
d.Higher economic growth
e.All of the above
- The passage talks about creation of a GST Council, who among the following would be members of this council?
a.Union Finance minister
b.State Finance ministers
c.State Chief ministers
d.Both a and b
e.Both a and c
- Which of the following would be the function (s) of the proposed GST council?
a.Setting threshold and exemption limit of Goods and Services to be brought under GST
b.Resolving issues related to implementation of GST
c.Recommending tax rates to be levied under GST
d.Both a and c
e.a, b and c
- The draft GST legislation proposes a uniform rate of GST across the country, which of the following is not true regarding uniform rates as per the passage?
a.It will appeal to trade and Industry
b.Uniform rates can restrain fiscal autonomy
c.There is no guarantee that this will lead to a creation of a common market
d.It would lead to limited flexibility to the states in changing CGST and SGST rates
e.It would lead to greater flexibility to vary CGST and SGST rates
- All the following taxes are part of GST except:
e.None of the above
- Which of the following is closest in meaning to Ambivalence as used in the passage?
- Which of the following is closest in meaning to Dubious as used in the passage?
- Which of the following is closest in meaning to Circumscribed as used in the passage?
- Which of the following is farthest in meaning to Pronounced as used in the passage?
- Which of the following is farthest in meaning to Intricated as used in the passage?