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India is notorious for its complex tax system. For new businesses and startups, it becomes impossible to navigate through various direct and indirect taxes. Constant changes to taxes like Service Tax are making things even worst. But now, the things are set to change with new Goods and service tax – commonly known as GST.

Lets understand what is GST, how it is different from other taxes, GST applicability, GST rates, its impact on your business and latest updates about GST bill. To make things easy to understand, I will start with an example..

Mr. Sharma is a businessman who wants to start a business. For this he needs various raw materials which have to be imported from China and will need to be brought to Gurgaon – where he has his factory – by road through various states. Once he gets down on the process of estimating his costs he is a little troubled.

First, he needs to pay a customs duty for importing the materials on top of the shipping charges. This is fine but there are a lot of other taxes which he seems to be unable to comprehend. Also he finds out that when he has his final product ready he will have paid the Central and State Governments at least 10 different taxes not all of which are exclusive of each other. On diving deeper he finds many cases where a tax is also taxed by the government.

Petrol prices are the perfect example. The price charged to dealers by the Oil Marketing Companies is Rs. 25.46 currently for a litre of petrol. Now Excise Duty is collected at Rs. 21.48 per litre by the Central Government and adding the dealer commission the price now is Rs. 49.22. This is not the end and Value Added Tax is now charged at 27% which takes the final price to Rs. 62.51 in Delhi. At first it may seem fair that both the Governments tax the product but it is not that innocuous. There is a tax on a tax here! The State Government charges 27% of the final amount in which Central Excise Duty has already been borne by the businessman.

The Goods and Services Tax promises to alleviate this problem among many others. It is being hailed as the game changer for India’s economy and is being labelled as the biggest change in the Constitution since India’s independence. The Goods and Services tax or commonly referred to as the GST will replace the indirect taxes levied by the Central and State Governments and provide for a single and streamlined process. It presents India as a unified market to business owners and also aims at bringing a lot of black money back into the mainstream economy. The tax will be implemented at every step of value creation.

Example Of GST Calculation

Let us assume that the GST is set at 20%. Suppose that the manufacturing cost of a Product A is 100 and assuming a GST of 20% the total amount is Rs. 120. The next step of taxation would be when the Product is sold to consumers, let’s say at a price of 150. So the GST will charge another 20% on just the difference of Rs. 150 and Rs. 120 i.e. only 20% on Rs. 30 which is equal to Rs. 6. So the final price is Rs. 150 + Rs. 6. Unlike the case of petrol pricing there is no tax on a tax now. This eliminates the cascading effect of taxes which is very prevalent in our economy and has been simplified to an elemental level in the example.

Since the GST will be applied at every step of value creation it will be very difficult for black money owners to participate anywhere in the value chain with the GST without accounting for all other transactions. The GST is estimated to provide an immediate boost of 0.9% – 1.4% of the GDP.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About GST Bill

1) What are final GST rate slabs?

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be levied at multiple rates ranging from 0 per cent to 28 per cent. GST Council finalised a four-tier GST tax structure of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%, with lower rates for essential items and the highest for luxury and de-merits goods that would also attract an additional cess.

Service Tax will go up from 15% to 18%. The services being taxed at lower rates, owing to the provision of abatement, such as train tickets, will fall in the lower slabs.

In order to control inflation, essential items including food, which presently constitute roughly half of the consumer inflation basket, will be taxed at zero rate.

The lowest rate of 5% would be for common use items. There would be two standard rates of 12 per cent and 18 per cent, which would fall on the bulk of the goods and services. This includes fast-moving consumer goods.

Highest tax slab will be applicable to items which are currently taxed at 30-31% (excise duty plus VAT).

Ultra luxuries, demerit and sin goods (like tobacco and aerated drinks), will attract a cess for a period of five years on top of the 28 per cent GST.

The collection from this cess as well as that of the clean energy cess would create a revenue pool which would be used for compensating states for any loss of revenue during the first five years of implementation of GST.

Finance minister said that the cess would be lapsable after five years.

The structure to agreed is a compromise to accommodate demand for highest tax rate of 40% by states like Kerala.
While the Centre proposed to levy a 4% GST on gold but the final decision on this was put off. During a press conference, finance minister Mr. Jaitley said, “GST rate on gold will be finalised after the fitting to the approved rates structure of all items is completed and there is some idea of revenue projections”.

The principle for determining the rate on each item will be to levy and collect the GST at the rate slab closest to the current tax incidence on it.

The GST will subsume the multitude of cesses currently in place, including the Swachh Bharat Cess, the Krishi Kalyan Cess and the Education Cess. Only the Clean Environment Cess is being retained, revenues from which will also fund the compensations.

2) What are CGST, SGST and IGST?

India is a federal democracy that is one which has clear demarcation of powers, responsibility and revenue collection between the states and the centre in its constitution. For example law and order falls under the state’s jurisdiction while the nation’s defence is the centre’s responsibility. The GST too needs to have clear provisions on what areas the centre and the state are allowed to collect revenue from taxation to prevent an overlapping.

The Central GST or CGST is the areas where the centre has the powers and State GST where the State has taxation capabilities. The IGST or Integrated GST is for movement of goods within the states of the Indian union. This will be collected by the union however will be transferred over to the states. Thus it is essential that if and when the GST comes out it is rolled over in the entire nation simultaneously.

3) What are the differences between the UPA’s GST and the NDA’s GST?

Below are the primary differences:

4) What are the taxes that GST replaces?

The GST replaces numerous different indirect taxes such as:

  1. Central Excise Duty
  2. Service Tax
  3. Countervailing Duty
  4. Special Countervailing Duty
  5. Value Added Tax (VAT)
  6. Central Sales Tax (CST)
  7. Octroi
  8. Entertainment Tax
  9. Entry Tax
  10. Purchase Tax
  11. Luxury Tax
  12. Advertisement taxes
  13. Taxes applicable on lotteries.

5) What will be the short-term impact of GST?

The GST will fuel inflation for the short term. The GST rate starts at 5% and 18% taxation services such as restaurants, movies etc. are bound to increase prices. Another problem with the GST that many pundits feel is not including liquor and petroleum under GST’s ambit. These are major revenue sources for the government and experts feel this is being done due to a few crony capitalists who need some time to funnel away their black money as the GST promises to widen the tax paying population.

6) When will GST be implemented?

Government may not be able to meet the initial GST implementation date of 1st April 2017. Its widely assumed that GST rollout will start only after 1 July 2017.

Keep checking the article for latest updates.

7) What is a constitutional amendment?

A Constitutional Amendment as the name suggests is any change in the Constitution. A democracy like India derives all its rules and laws from the Constitution and hence any change in the Constitution is a change in the fundamental fabric of the country. The GST is the One Hundred and Twenty Second such proposed amendment and hence is named The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill, 2014.

In simple terms bills other than the Constitution Amendment Bill are just modifications to topics that area already mentioned in the constitution. The introduction of a few new IITs is a perfect example. All these require are a simple majority in both the houses and the President’s Approval. However the GST requires a Constitution Amendment Bill which is a direct change in the Constitution and requires two-thirds of the votes in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

8) What are the finer points in the implementation of the bill?

Several committees were setup to evaluate the feasibility and implementation of the GST. Some fine points which were considered are:

  1. The problem of separating the taxation powers of the state and the centre which resulted in CGST and SGST.
  2. Exemptions from the GST which currently includes Petroleum and Liquor for human consumption.
  3. GST will be applicable on imports too along with the Basic Customs Duty which has not been scrapped.
  4. The GST will be applicable at the point of sale. In comparison the Value Added Tax is a destination based tax while excise duties are taxed at the origin.
  5. The workings in the implementation of IGST.

9) What is the Empowered Committee?

The Empowered Committee is a committee of the Finance Ministers of the states. It was set up by the Vajpayee Government to look into the Value Added Tax model. The committee has had an influential hand in shaping and structuring of the GST.

10) What will become costlier and cheaper?

According to experts, these items could become costlier:

And these could become cheaper:

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