While sticking to the rollout date of July 1, 2017 for the first-of-its-kind mammoth indirect tax reform post independence in India, the all-powerful GST Council headed by the Hon'ble Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley concluded their meet for the 17th time on June 18, 2017. The GST Council on Sunday made the dreaded anti-profiteering clause more palatable specifying a sunset clause of two years even as it relaxed the deadline for filing returns under the GST till September.
With the conclusion of the 17th GST Council meet on June 18, 2017, the gist of the key takeaways from the meeting of the GST Council are as under:
July 1, 2017 announced as the rollout date for GST
India's tryst with its most comprehensive indirect tax reform, i.e. GST, will begin on July 1. The GST Council, the apex decision body for the new tax, has stuck to the scheduled rollout.
'The official launch of the GST will take place on the midnight of June 30 and July 1 at a function which will be organised in Delhi,' Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley said after the 17th GST Council meeting. There was no 'luxury of time to defer the implementation' of GST, he said.
Relaxed timeline for GST filing for July and August months:
In a breather to tax assessees apprehensive about the burden of compliance under GST regime, the GST Council on Sunday decided to relax the deadline for filing of returns for the first two months following GST's rollout.
As per the revised timeline for filing returns, Corporations would need to file a single-page summary return in GSTR-3B form on a self-declaration basis for the first two months - July and August - by the 20thday of the following month.
This implies, for the month of July, a summary return will need to be filed by August 20, after paying appropriate taxes; for August it will need to be filed by September 20.
GSTR-1 with invoice level details for the month of July will need to be filed by September 5. For the month of August, the deadline will be September 20. GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 for these two months will be filed thereafter.
'The simplified rules for filing returns require a taxpayer to file only a simple, self-certified return - by August 20 for July and September 20 for August. This would summarize inward and outward supplies rather than specify invoice-wise detailed returns as per GST rules. However, assesses must file the return with invoice details in September for both months. These will be matched with the simpler returns filed earlier, and any difference in tax amount will be paid by the tax assessee ,' Shri Adhia said.
Approval to Draft Rules relating to advance ruling, appeals and revision, assessment and anti-profiteering
The GST Council also approved the Rules relating to advance ruling, appeals and revision, assessment and anti-profiteering.
'We want to keep it as a deterrent and hope we are not compelled to use the APA,' the Finance Minister said.
Revenue Secretary Shri Hasmukh Adhia said the Rules will be notified by Monday. According to the mechanism, a Standing Committee of officers will review the complaints which will then be investigated by the Directorate General of Safeguards. If found genuine, it will forward the complaint to the anti-profiteering authority (APA), which will be set up soon, to take the final call on whether a company has engaged in profiteering. If it has, the amount will have to be refunded to consumers and if that's not possible, given to the consumer welfare fund.
'It will have a sunset clause of two years,' Adhia said.
E-Way Bill Rules not yet finalised:
Another set of rules dealing with the contentious E-Way Bill was discussed at length but could not be finalised because of divergent opinions among states. With the GST Council divided on the E-Way Bill Rules, the manner in which consignments moving across states will be tracked, Shri. Jaitley said the transient rule would prevail pending a final decision.
New Registrations from June 25:
On the registration of businesses, Shri Jaitley said that 65.6 lakh, or 81.1%, of the existing 80.91 lakh excise, service tax and VAT assessees, have migrated to the GST Network. Registration, which closed on June 15, will reopen on June 25, and the process has been going on 'satisfactorily', he said. 'Businesses should not rush for migration. The provisional ID number will be the same for GSTIN (GST identification number). New businesses too need not rush. They will have 30 days for GSTIN.'
Relaxation in tax rate for hotels:
The GST Council has decided to provide relief to hotels by raising the threshold tariff for the 28% tax rate to Rs. 7,500 from Rs. 5,000 proposed earlier. 'After a lot of discussion (it was decided) that 28% limit in hotels will start from Rs. 7,500 which means that between Rs. 2,500 and Rs. 7,500, the rate will be 18%. It will be 28% beyond Rs. 7,500. Similarly, tax GST on restaurants in these hotels will be at par with other air conditioned restaurants which is 18%,' Shri Jaitley said.
Tax rate on lotteries:
State-run lotteries are going to be taxed under the GST regime at 12%, while state-authorised private lotteries would fall in the 18% tax slab.
Composition Scheme - Rs. 50 Lakhs threshold limit to continue for specified special category States:
The GST Council also decided the threshold limit for the composition scheme for special category states. Shri Jaitley said that barring Uttarakhand, which has opted for a Rs. 75 lakh threshold for the composition scheme, and Jammu & Kashmir, the Rs. 50 lakh threshold will continue for all other special category states.
In the previous GST Council meeting, the threshold for the composition scheme was raised to Rs. 75 lakh from the earlier decided level of Rs. 50 lakh for other states, and the decision on special category states had been kept pending.
Composition Scheme -Negative List:
The GST Council has also recommended that manufacturers of the following goods shall not be eligible for the Composition Scheme:
- Ice cream and other edible ice, whether or not containing cocoa [2105 00 00]
- Pan Masala [2106 90 20]
- Tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes 
GST Rate on certain goods: The GST Council also recommended that the GST rate on dried singhada and makhanawill be 5%.
GST Rate on vessels: The council has set a 5% integrated GST on shipping vessels with input tax credit.
The GST Council will meet again on June 30 to take stock and decide before the implementation of GST.
With clear announcement of July 1, 2017 as the appointed day, it is time now for all of us to gear up for timely rollout of GST. The relaxation in timeline for filing the initial invoice-wise returns for first two months after GST rollout allows only a reasonable time for the Industries and the GSTN along with various GSPs and ASPs for their preparation. Considering the narrow time relaxation window, it is imperative for the Industry to push hard and join the marathon to ensure their hassle-free & smooth transition to GST.
Shri Jaitley has said that 'those who are not ready will have two and a half months to get ready. If somebody still says he is not ready then it is to his own detriment.'
Source: Business Standard, Economic Times etc., and video capturing the press conference of Mr. Arun Jaitley after 16th GST Council Meet ends