Goods and Service Tax (GST) was implemented from the midnight of June 30 and July 1 2017.The GST is a value added tax which will subsume many indirect taxes, mainly central excise duty and service tax and states’ Octroi and sales tax. It is being purported as a game changing indirect tax reform. Speaking on the occasion, the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said that the day marks a decisive turning point as it would lead to a modern tax administration in India which is simpler, more transparent, and helps curb corruption and ensure economic integration. The GST Bill (122nd Constitutional Amendment) has been passed by Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha
with the objective of reducing the cascading effect of indirect taxes on the cost of goods and
services. The implementation of GST in the country is considered commensurate with the requirements of the Indian economy, which is undertaking reforms to move towards high growth trajectory in the next few years (8 per cent in immediate terms and double digit growth rate in medium and long terms).
Why it is a value Added Tax?
GST is a single tax on the supply of goods and services, right from the manufacturer to the consumer. Credits of input taxes paid at each stage will be available in the subsequent stage of value addition, which makes GST essentially a tax only on value addition at each stage. The final consumer will thus bear only the GST charged by the last dealer in the supply chain, with set-off benefits at all the previous stages.
Why does it represent a single unified tax?
GST exclusive feature of being a unified taxation structure originates from it subsuming seventeen different taxes under the past indirect taxation structure i.e. taxes which were at Central level including Central Excise Duty, Additional Excise Duty, Service Tax, Additional Customs Duty commonly known as Countervailing Duty and Special Additional Duty of Customs. While at State level GST subsumes State Value Added Tax/Sales Tax, Entertainment Tax (other than the tax levied by the local bodies), Central Sales Tax (levied by the Centre and collected by the States), Octroi and Entry tax, Purchase Tax, Luxury tax, Taxes on lottery, betting and gambling.
GST model is a step towards cooperative federalism
The taxing rights of Centre and States are well demarcated in the Central and State lists of the Indian constitution. The framework for levy of indirect taxes under the Constitutional provisions in India vide Article 246, Seventh Schedule empowers both the Central Government and the State Governments to levy and collect applicable taxable-event based indirect taxes on transactions of goods and services. The taxable event varies from the point of manufacture or sale or provision of services or imports/exports. The existing indirect tax laws are origin-based tax, structured to levy and collect at the point of happening of the prescribed taxable event. There are a number of indirect taxes applied by the government. Taxes are levied on import, manufacture, sale and even purchases of goods and services.
The various tax laws were levied and collected as follows:
- Central Excise Duty– Manufacture of Goods in India (excluding goods manufactured in SEZ in India)- levied and collected by the central government.
- Service Tax– Provision of Service Taxable Territory- levied and collected by the central government
- Sales Tax/ VAT- Sale of goods within the State- levied and collected by the state government.
- Customs Duty- Import into India from a place outside India or Export from India to a place outside India- levied and collected by the central government.
- Central Sales Tax- Sale of goods Inter- State (i.e. from one State to another State)- levied by central government and collected by state government.
- Local Body Tax (Entry Tax/Octroi)– Entry of goods to a State from a place outside the State- levied and collected by state government.
This demarcation has now given way to a combined source of revenue for both the Centre and State. The GST gives rights to both Centre and State to collect the tax with predetermined rate applying throughout the country. Thus while India will have one tax throughout the country making it a single right, the states will also enjoy to their right to mobilize revenue through GST. India chose to follow the dual GST model signifying centre and states as partners in administration. This led to the present model of three types of GST: Central GST (CGST), State GST (SGST) / Union territories (UGST) and Integrated GST (IGST). Tax will be levied on every supply of goods and services. Centre would levy and collect Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST), and States would levy and collect the State Goods and Services Tax (SGST) on all transactions within a State.
The GST addresses the challenges posed by earlier indirect tax structure
- Different tax rates on same product under existing VAT / Sales Tax under different States leading to fragmentation of market
- Not leveraging economies of scale resulting into higher cost of production for goods and services because fixed overhead costs get absorbed on lower scale of production and lack of technological leverage to industries due to low economics of scale.
- Uncertainty in tax laws due to constitutional provisions, contradictory provisions and subordinate legislation, multiplicity of taxes (rules or notification through circulars) leading to increase in litigation and uncertainty in business.
- Higher level of litigation leads to high compliance cost and this results into anti-business environment.
How GST is better than other Value Added Taxes prevalent in India
The Indian tax structure has seen evolution right from the pre-existing Central excise duty and the States sales tax systems to VAT, MODVAT and then changing to CENVAT. This lead to harmonizing of sales tax structure through implementation of uniform floor rates of sales tax. Introduction of VAT has been successful in India but there continued to be certain shortcomings in the VAT structure both at Central and State level. For example CENVAT does not include many central taxes such as additional custom duty, surcharges etc. Moreover, no crucial steps were been implemented to capture the value added chain in the distribution trade below the manufacturing level in the existing scheme of CENVAT. Thus, in order to reduce these loopholes in the taxation system by eliminating the cascading effects of CENVAT and service taxes the rise of the revolutionary reform GST began. With the agenda of reducing the cascading effects of tax on the cost of goods and services, GST was introduced.
The basic comprehension of GST can be made that it is a multi-tier value added tax. It’s called value added tax because at every stage tax would be paid on the value addition thereby reducing the double taxation issue faced by the tax payers. In layman terms we can say that whatever extra value you are adding to the output excluding the inputs would be the one on which you are liable to pay taxes. GST will have two components: one levied by the Centre and the other by the States. The Central GST and the State GST are to be paid to the accounts of the Centre and States respectively. It would be applicable to all the transactions of goods and services except the exempted goods and services for example: alcohol, petroleum products etc.
How GST removes multiplicity and establishes uniformity in tax structure
Contrary to analysts’ view that the GST has a complicated tax structure and it is not an ideal GST tax structure, the Economic Survey 2016 says that the GST is relative to the past, brings now uniformity rather than multiplicity as well as considerably less complexity. It says that previously, every good faced an excise tax levied by the Centre and a state VAT. There were at least 8-10 rates of excises and 3-4 rates of state VATs, the latter potentially different across states. So, a structure of multiple rates (as much as 10 times 4 times 29 states) has been reduced to a structure of 6 rates. More important, uniformity or the principle of “one good, one tax” all over India is now a reality. Previously, different states could impose different taxes on any given product and these could be different from that levied by the Centre.
Taxes Subsumed by GST
GST has three components: one levied by the Centre and the other by the States/UT’s. The
Central GST and the State GST are to be paid to the accounts of the Centre and States
respectively. It is applicable to all the transactions of goods and services except the exempted
goods and services for example: alcohol, petroleum products etc.
Central Taxes subsumed under the GST are:
- Central Excise duty
- Duties of Excise (Medicinal and Toilet
- Additional Duties of Excise (Goods of Special
- Additional Duties of Excise (Textiles and
- Textile Products)
- Additional Duties of Customs (commonly
- known as CVD)
- Special Additional Duty of Customs (SAD)
- Service Tax
- Central Surcharges and Cesses so far
State taxes subsumed under the GST are:
- State VAT
- Central Sales Tax
- Luxury Tax
- Entry Tax (all forms)
- Entertainment and Amusement Tax
- (except when levied by the local bodies)
- Taxes on advertisements
- Purchase Tax
- Taxes on lotteries, betting and gambling
- State Surcharges and Cesses so far as they
- Relate to supply of goods and services.
GST does not subsume some Taxes
GST does not subsume following taxes within its ambit
- Basic Customs Duty: These are protective duties levied at the time of Import of goods into India.
- Exports Duty: This duty is imposed at the time of export of certain goods which are not available in India in abundance.
- Road & Passenger Tax: These are in the nature of fees and not in the nature of taxes on goods and services.
- Toll Tax: These are in the nature of user fees and not in the nature of taxes on goods and services.
- Property Tax
- Stamp Duty
- Electricity Duty
Structure of GST
Broadly the following categorization of taxes shall be incorporated under GST:
- CGST (Central Goods and Service Tax)
- SGST ( State Goods and Service Tax )
- IGST (Integrated Goods and Service Tax)
Central Goods and Service Tax (CGST)
CGST is a part of goods and service tax. It is covered under Central Goods and Service Tax Act 2016. Taxes collected under Central Goods and Service tax will be the revenue for central Government. Present Central taxes like Central excise duty, Additional Excise duty, Special Excise Duty, Central Sales Tax, Service Tax etc. will be subsumed under Central Goods and Service Tax.
State Goods and Service Tax (SGST)
It is covered under State Goods and service Tax Act 2016. A collection of SGST will be the revenue for State Government. After the introduction of SGST all the state taxes like Value Added Tax, Entertainment Tax, Luxury Tax, and Entry Tax etc. will be merged under SGST. For example, if goods are sold or services are provided within the State then SGST will be levied on such transaction.
IGST (Integrated Goods and Service Tax)
Besides the dual components of GST the other topic that has been discussed on a massive scale is the how the inter-state transactions of goods and services shall be taxed in GST regime. The Empowered Committee of the State Finance Ministers suggests that for inter-state transactions tax should be levied under the integrated GST(IGST) scheme which is the sum total of CGST and SGST. IGST falls under Integrated Goods and Service Tax Act 2016. Revenue collected from IGST will be divided between Central Government and State Government as per the rates specified by the government. IGST will be charged on transfer of goods and services from one state to another state. Import of Goods and Services will also be deemed to be covered under Interstate transactions so IGST will be levied on such transactions.
Goods and Services Tax Council
Goods and Services Tax Council (GST Council) had been constituted on 15.09.2016 under Article 279A of the Constitution. The GST Council consists of the Union Finance Minister, the Union Minister of State in charge of Revenue or Finance and the Minister in charge of Finance or Taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State Government.
The GST Council is presently deliberating on various issues entrusted to it. The GST Council has held seventeen meetings so far and has made recommendations with respect to thresholds, tax rates, GST Rules, treatment of existing tax incentives, Draft GST Compensation Law and Model GST Law for implementation of GST. All the decisions taken by the Council so far have been based on consensus. The Government is making concerted efforts in the form of IT readiness, rigorous consultations, workshops and training sessions for the industry and traders, and all other stake holders involved.
The mechanism of GST Council ensures harmonization on different aspects of GST between the Centre and the States as well as among States. It has been specifically provided that the GST Council, in its discharge of various functions, shall be guided by the need for a harmonized structure of GST and for the development of a harmonized national market for goods and services. The GST Council shall establish a mechanism to adjudicate disputes arising out of its recommendation or implementation thereof.
The Goods and Services Tax Network
Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) is a Section 8 (under new companies Act, not for profit companies are governed under section 8), non-Government, private limited company. It was incorporated on March 28, 2013. The Government of India holds 24.5% equity in GSTN and all States of the Indian Union, including NCT of Delhi and Puducherry, and the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers (EC), together hold another 24.5%. Balance 51% equity is with non-Government financial institutions. The Company has been set up primarily to provide IT infrastructure and services to the Central and State Governments, tax payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The GST System Project is a unique and complex IT initiative. It is unique as it seeks, for the first time to establish a uniform interface for the tax payer and a common and shared IT infrastructure between the Centre and States. Currently, the Centre and State indirect tax administrations work under different laws, regulations, procedures and formats and consequently the IT systems work as independent sites.
Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitely during the fourth GST council meeting announced the tax slabs under Goods and Services Tax which have been fixed at 0%, 5 %, 12%, 18 % and 28%. The fixing of these rates by the GST council headed by Union Finance minister Arun Jaitely and state finance ministers marks a crucial step towards the roll out of single tax replacing the present tax structure to initiate uniformity in the Indian taxation system. The lowest tax rate of 5 percent is suggested to be levied on items of mass consumption such as spices, mustard oil etc. which are used particularly by common people. On the other hand the standard tax rate of 12 and 18 percent would accommodate most of the goods and services, which too are likely to fall in this bracket. The fourth slab of 28 percent will imply to white goods and cars while and an additional cess will be collected along with the higher tax rate of 28 percent on Luxury cars, pan masala, tobacco and aerated drinks.
0% Rate –
Goods- No tax will be imposed on items like Jute, fresh meat, fish chicken, eggs, milk, butter milk, curd, natural honey, fresh fruits and vegetables, flour, besan, bread, prasad, salt, bindi. Sindoor, stamps, judicial papers, printed books, newspapers, bangles, handloom, Bones and horn cores, bone grist, bone meal, etc.; hoof meal, horn meal, Cereal grains hulled, Palmyra jaggery, Salt – all types, Kajal, Children’s’ picture, drawing or colouring books, Human hair .
Services- Hotels and lodges with tariff below Rs 1,000, Grandfathering service has been exempted under GST. Rough precious and semiprecious stones will attract GST rate of 0.25 per cent.
Goods-Items such as fish fillet, Apparel below Rs 1000, packaged food items, footwear below Rs 500, cream, skimmed milk powder, branded paneer, frozen vegetables, coffee, tea, spices, pizza bread, rusk, sabudana, kerosene, coal, medicines, stent, lifeboats, Cashew nut, Cashew nut in shell, Raisin, Ice and snow, Bio gas, Insulin, Agarbatti, Kites, Postage or revenue stamps, stamp-post marks, first-day covers.
Services- Transport services (Railways, air transport), small restaurants will be under the 5% category because their main input is petroleum, which is outside GST ambit.
Goods- Apparel above Rs 1000, frozen meat products , butter, cheese, ghee, dry fruits in packaged form, animal fat, sausage, fruit juices, Bhutia, namkeen, Ayurvedic medicines, tooth powder, agarbatti, colouring books, picture books, umbrella, sewing machine, cellphones, Ketchup & Sauces, All diagnostic kits and reagents, Exercise books and note books, Spoons, forks, ladles, skimmers, cake servers, fish knives, tongs, Spectacles, corrective, Playing cards, chess board, carom board and other board goods.
Services- State-run lotteries, Non- AC hotels, business class air ticket, fertilisers, Work Contracts will fall under 12 per cent GST tax slab.
Goods- Most items are under this tax slab which include footwear costing more than Rs 500, Trademarks, goodwill, software, Bidi Patta, Biscuits (All catogories), flavoured refined sugar, pasta, cornflakes, pastries and cakes, preserved vegetables, jams, sauces, soups, ice cream, instant food mixes, mineral water, tissues, envelopes, tampons, note books, steel products, printed circuits, camera, speakers and monitors, Kajal pencil sticks, Headgear and parts thereof, Aluminium foil, Weighing Machinery.
Services- AC hotels that serve liquor, telecom services, IT services, branded garments and financial services will attract 18 per cent tax under GST, Room tariffs between Rs 2,500 and Rs 7,500, Restaurants inside five star hotels.
Goods- Bidis, chewing gum, molasses, chocolate not containing cocoa, waffles and wafers coated with choclate, pan masala, aerated water, paint, deodorants, shaving creams, after shave, hair shampoo, dye, sunscreen, wallpaper, ceramic tiles, water heater, dishwasher, weighing machine, washing machine, ATM, vending machines, vacuum cleaner, shavers, hair clippers, automobiles, motorcycles, aircraft for personal use, will attract 28 % tax – the highest under GST system.
Services- Private-run lotteries authorised by the states, hotels with room tariffs above Rs 7,500, 5-star hotels, race club betting, cinema will attract tax 28 per cent tax slab under GST.
Assessment of Rates
The four tier tax structure agreed to has slight modification to the 6, 12, 18 and 26 percent slab that were under discussion at the GST council declared earlier. Undoubtedly, the interest of common man has been duly taken care of which is evident from finalisation of 5% tax rate on common use items, as against 6% proposed earlier. Further, zero rating of necessities is also a welcome move in the beneficial interest of the common man.
However the fourth slab of 28 percent will imply to white goods and cars while an additional cess will be collected along with the higher tax rate of 28 percent on Luxury cars, which the industry says is counterproductive to the ongoing tax reforms in the country as it will have impact on demand and make in India programme and consequently on manufacturing and employment.
It is observed that 7% of the items fall under the exempt list while 14% have been put in the lowest tax bracket of 5%. Another 17% items are in 12% tax bracket, 43% in 18% tax slab and only 19% of goods fall in the top tax bracket of 28%. As many as 81% of the items will attract 18% or less GST. There will be no inflationary impact as most of the rates which are at 31% have been brought down to 28%. The tax rate under GST will not go up for any of the commodities. There is no increase, instead on many commodities; there is a reduction particularly because the cascading effect of tax is gone.
Further, the council agreed to a tax rate of 3% on gold under GST, which is lower than the lowest tax slab of 5%, and is closer to the current tax incidence of about 2%. In turn, it created an entirely new tax slab of 3% for a single item — gems and jewelry — in addition to the four tax slabs decided for all the other items. In a majority of supplies of goods, the tax incidence approved by the GST Council is much lower than the present combined indirect tax rates levied [on account of central excise duty rates / embedded central excise duty rates / service tax post-clearance embedding, VAT rates or weighted average VAT rates, cascading of VAT over excise duty and tax incidence on account of CST, Octroi, Entry Tax, etc.] by the Centre and States.
Key Benefits of the GST
- Furthering cooperative federalism– Nearly all domestic indirect tax decisions to be taken jointly by Centre and states.
- Reducing corruption and leakage– Self-policing: invoice matching to claim input tax credit will deter non-compliance and fostercompliance. Previously invoice matching existed only for intra-state VAT transactions and not for excise and service tax nor for imports.
- Simplifying complex tax structure and unifying tax rates across the country– 8-10 central excise duty rates times 3-4 state VAT rates itself applied differentially across states to be consolidated into the GST’s 6 rates, applied uniformly across states (one good, one Indian tax) Other taxes and cesses of the states and the Centre subsumed in the GST.
- Creating a common market– Will eliminate most physical restrictions and all taxes on inter-state trade.
- Furthering ‘Make in India’ by eliminating bias in favour of imports (“negative protection”)– Will make more effective and less leaky the domestic tax levied on imports (IGST, previously the sum of the countervailing duty and special additional duty), which will make domestic goods more competitive.
- Eliminating tax bias against manufacturing/reducing consumer tax burden– By rectifying breaks in the supply chain and allowing easier flow of input tax credits, GST will substantially eliminate cascading (paying taxes at each stage on value added and taxes at all previous stages, such as with the Central Sales Tax).
- Boosting revenues, investment, and medium-term economic growth– Investment will be stimulated, because scope of input tax credit for capital purchases will increase Tax base will expand through better compliance Embedded taxes in exports will be neutralized.
Additional compliance burden?
Goods— It is true that there will be additional documentation requirements on all those who are now part of the GST net. But the filing requirements will comprise filling one set of forms per month (not three as has been alleged because filling the first automatically fills the two others). This will not be an additional burden because similar, sometimes more onerous, requirements existed under the previous state VAT and central excise regimes. For example, , under the pre-GST regime, three separate returns to three different authorities had to be filed in respect of the three major taxes that are now subsumed under the GST.
Services— Previously, since only the Centre imposed the service tax, agents had to register with, and hence file to, only one authority. Now, agents will have to register in all states that they operate in and file in each of them. In the discussions in the GST Council, attempts were made to preserve the previous, simpler system, but states were nearly unanimous in insisting for multiple registration as a way to ensure that they receive their due share of revenues. That said, the increased compliance requirements will be faced only by a small number of agents with a pan-India presence whose ability to comply will be commensurately greater. Going forward, there is scope for more centralized procedures to minimize the compliance burden.
Small Traders—- Much has been made of the additional compliance burden on small traders and agents. This overlooks some important changes in the other direction. The GST has significantly raised turnover thresholds for inclusion in the tax net. As a result, out of about 87 lakh agents that were previously in the tax net (states VAT, central excise and service tax) about 70 lakh remain in the GST net. A significant number of small traders with turnover less than 20 lakh may have opted out. Moreover, even though the new threshold is 20 lakh, agents with a turnover of up to 75 lakh can choose to pay a small tax on their turnover (not valued added), which they can file every quarter instead of every month with fewer documents having to be submitted. On the concerns that the anti profiteering provisions might lead to overzealous administration, the Government has indicated that they will be sparingly used. In any case, a sunset clause was introduced to ensure that the provisions will expire no later than two years.
One important hidden benefit of the GST is that the textile and clothing sector is now fully part of the tax net. Previously, some parts of the value chain, especially fabrics, were outside the tax net, leading to informalisation and evasion. Some anomalies favoring imports of fabrics over domestic production will need to be rectified but overall the tax base has expanded.
Similarly, one segment of land and real estate transactions has been brought into the tax net: “work contracts”, referring to housing that is being built. This in turn would allow for greater transparency and formalization of cement, steel, and other sales, which tended to be outside the tax net. The formalization will occur because builders will need documentation of these input purchases to claim tax credit.
Third, the GST will rectify the inadequacies of the previous system of domestic taxes levied on imports—the countervailing duty to offset the excise tax and the Special Additional Duty (SAD) to offset the state VAT. For example, the SAD was levied at 4 percent, even though the standard VAT was 12.5 percent in most states; while in principle firms that paid VAT on inputs could reclaim the tax, in practice there were difficulties getting the tax credits. Under the GST, the full taxes on domestic sales levied by the Centre and the states (the IGST) will be levied when imported goods first arrive into the country with full tax credits available down the chain to a greater extent than previously. This will lead to more transparent and more effective taxation of imports.
There are early signs of tax base expansion. Between June and July 2017, 6.6 lakh new agents previously outside the tax net have sought GST registration. This is expected to rise consistently as the incentives for formalization increase. Preliminary estimates point to potentially large increases in the tax base as a consequence.
Another benefit will be the impact of GST and the information it throws up on direct tax collections. This could be substantial. In the past, the Centre had little data on small manufacturers and consumption (because the excise was imposed at the manufacturing stage), while states had little data on the activities of local firms outside their borders. Under the GST, there will be seamless flow and availability of a common set of data to both the Centre and states, making direct tax collections more effective.
Longer term benefits
The longer-term benefits include the GST’s impact on financial inclusion. Small businesses can build up a real time track record of tax payments digitally, and this can be used by lending institutions for credit rating and lending purposes. Currently, smallbusinesses are credit-constrained because they cannot credibly demonstrate their financial capability. Finally, even within the first few days of the GST’s launch there are reports of elimination of inter-state check-posts. So far, 24 states have abolished these check-posts while others are in the process of eliminating them. If this trend continues, the reduction in transport costs, fuel use, and corruption could be significant.
The apprehensions and challenges
- The GST rates in India are multiple and they have deviated from a single rate GST in its standard format.
- The GST has multiple rates and rates do appear complex and irrational if the lists of goods and services and their concerned rates are seen.
- The rate structure and exclusion from the base have scope for improvement. Alcohol, petroleum and energy products, electricity, and some of land and real estate transactions are outside the GST base but are taxed by the Centre and/or states outside the GST. Health and education are outside the tax net altogether, exempted under the GST and not otherwise taxed by the Centre and states.
- The input credit would initially put additional burden on central exchequer. Besides, the provision of compensation to the states if their revenue falls short of certain level for the next five years would also be an added burden on the exchequer.
- And finally initially dislocations due to new tax regime may bring down economic activities and GDP in the short run.
Top 5 challenges faced by tax & accounting professionals due to GST
The industry, at present, is struggling to get on with the destination-based tax from an origin-based tax structure. The shift from the previous tax regime and carry forward the input credits into GST is the biggest challenge that businesses are facing today. To make “One Nation, One Tax” a reality, the government is training its officers on taxation of services. GSTN, the technology backbone for the reform, has a massive IT mandate of securely handling mammoth volumes of data that GST will generate. The legislation cuts across all enterprises, requiring them to relook at their business models, business policies, and procedures. To make “One Nation, One Tax” a reality, the government is training its officers on taxation of services. GSTN, the technology backbone for the reform, has a massive IT mandate of securely handling mammoth volumes of data that GST will generate. The legislation cuts across all enterprises, requiring them to relook at their business models, business policies, and procedures.
GST offers tax and finance professionals multiple opportunities to grow their client list and clearly establish their role in ensuring seamless migration of various businesses to become GST compliant. Firms are scrambling to get the right teams in place to benefit from the new tax regime as GST is expected to bring in financial savings, which will accrue on account of a well-planned GST system. But such prospects are not without challenges for these professionals. Listed below (Shireesh Sahai, The Economic Times, July 04, 2017) are some of the biggest challenges the tax and finance professionals face today in the GST transition phase:
- GST preparedness among clients is missing
- Lack of Clarity on GST Provisions (Rules and Regulation)
- Increased compliance, with increase in the number of returns to be filed annually
- Preparedness of IT Systems
- Lack of skilled resources and need for re-skilling