Differentiating between khakhra, plain chapati or roti and the parotta, the Karnataka bench of Authority of Advance Ruling (AAR) has ruled that ready-to-eat parotta needs to be heated or further processed for human consumption and hence are liable for 18 per cent GST.
Bengaluru-based ID Fresh Foods, which is a food products company involved in preparation and supply of ready-to-cook items like idli and dosa batter, parotta and chapatis, had approached the AAR regarding whether preparation of whole wheat parotta and Malabar parotta can be classified under Chapter 1905 attracting 5 percent GST.
The Karnataka bench was of the view that the parotta is not covered by any other heading under the HSN system and also need to be processed for human consumption, so it needs to be charged under heading 2106, and not heading 1905 which covers foods like cakes, pastry that are completely cooked foods and are ready for consumption. “The products khakhra, plain chapatti and roti are completely cooked preparations, do not require any processing for human consumption and hence are ready to eat food preparations, whereas the impugned product (whole wheat Parottas and Malabar Parottas) are not only different from the said khakhras, plain chapatti or roti but also are not like products in common parlance as well as in the respect of essential nature of the product. These products also require further processing for human consumption,” the AAR said.
Most food items, especially those of essential and unprocessed nature, are charged nil GST. But processed foods attract higher rates of 5%, 12%, or 18% depending on the food product. For instance, pappad, bread (branded or otherwise), are charged zero GST, but pizza bread is charged 5% GST. Heading 1905 under the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System classifies pizza bread, khakhra, plain chapati or roti, rusks, toasted bread in one category, for which a 5% GST rate is levied. Similarly, in the ready for consumption category, unbranded namkeens, bhujia, mixture and similar edible preparation attract 5% GST, while such branded namkeen, bhujia, mixture attract 12% GST.
The different arguments:
While tax analysts say that less number of slabs and uniform rates might help in reducing such classification disputes, government officials say this is a standard practice of classifying products differently and it exists in other countries as well. Frozen parotta is preserved, sealed, packed, branded and is usually sold at higher prices, officials said, adding that it is not a staple item and is consumed by the class which can afford to pay taxes. Also, products such as milk are tax-free, but milk in tetra pack is taxed at 5% and condensed milk is taxed at 12%. The FMCG companies comprise the organized segment of the processed food industry and make significant profits on sale of packaged food items by selling them at higher rates, and that’s why they are taxed at higher rates, officials said.
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