India's Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee on 22nd March 2011 introduced Goods and Services Tax Bill in Parliament. In fact this bill is basically the constitutional amendment bill proposing for the provision of simultaneous powers on centre and states to levy taxes on goods and services. The proposed bill which is bill number 22 of 2011 has been named The Constitution (One Hundred and Fifteenth Amendment) Bill, 2011. This bill talks about the further amendment of the constitution of India. Articles which have been proposed to amend are as follows: Articles 248, 249, 250, 268, 268A, 269, 270, 271, 279, 286, 366, and 368. Of which Article 279 is amended to insert two sub Articles i.e. Article 279A and Article 279B. Article 279A describes about the Goods and Services Tax Council. This article briefs about Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council which is an important aspect of the Goods and Services Tax Bill.
Formation of GST Council
The first clause of article 279A says about the formation of Goods and Services Tax Council. The president of India within sixty days from the date of enactment of the proposed bill shall constitute a council and will be named as Goods and Services Tax Council.
Member of GST Council
Clause 2 of the Article 279A describes about the members of Good and Services Tax Council. The council shall consist of the following members:
a) Union Finance Minister – Chairperson
b) The Union Minister of State in-charge of Revenue – Member
c) The minister in charge of Finance or Taxation or any other minister nominated by each State Government – Members.
The Vice-Chairperson of the council will be chosen one amongst themselves from the State Government representatives.
Functions of GST Council
GST Council shall make recommendations to the union and states on:
a) The taxes, cesses and the surcharges levied by the centre, the states and the local bodies which may be subsumed in the goods and services tax.
b) The goods and services that may be subjected to or exempted from the goods and service taxes.
c) The threshold limit of turnover below which goods and services tax may be exempted.
d) The rates of goods and services tax.
e) Any other matter relating to the goods and services tax , as the council may decide.
The procedure in the performance of its functions shall be determined by the GST council and is empowered through Clause 7 of Article 279A
Meetings of GST Council
The quorum at its meeting shall be constituted by one-third of the total members of the GST council. According to Clause 8, every decision of GST council taken at a meeting shall be with the consensus of all the members present at the meeting. However Clause 9 of the Article says that no act or proceedings of the GST council shall be invalid because of the following reason:
a) Any vacancy in or any defect in, the constitution of the council or,
b) Any defect in the appointment of a person as a member of the council or,
c) Any irregularities in the procedure of the council not affecting the merits of the case.
The bill suggests an –all- powerful GST council will act as a joint forum for the states and centres. It may be considered as a disciplinary body whose decision will be binding on all. The collective acumen of the council would be valuable recourse in benchmarking exemptions, thresholds and other key parameters. Lot has been discussed about the change in autonomy in regard to Goods and Services Tax. This may be an alternative model for a federal economic power. We have to hang around till it becomes law which needs the approval of two-third of parliament and half of India’s 28 states.
*The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author and are not intended to reflect the views of the Department/ Government.
Inspector of Central Excise
Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India