The introduction of Goods and Services Tax on 1st of July 2017 was a very significant step in the field of indirect tax reforms in India. By amalgamating a large number of Central and State taxes into a single tax, the aim was to mitigate cascading or double taxation in a major way and pave the way for a common national market. From the consumer point of view, the biggest advantage would be in terms of a reduction in the overall tax burden on goods, which was estimated to be around 25%-30%. Introduction of GST would also make Indian products competitive in the domestic and international markets. Studies show that this would have a positive impact on economic growth. Last but not the least, this tax, because of its transparent and selfpolicing character, would be easier to administer.
2. The idea of moving towards the GST was first mooted by the then Union Finance Minister in his Budget for 2006-07. Initially, it was proposed that GST would be introduced from 1stApril, 2010. The Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers (EC) which had formulated the design of State VAT was requested to come up with a roadmap and structure for the GST. Joint Working Groups of officials having representatives of the States as well as the Centre were set up to examine various aspects of the GST and draw up reports specifically on exemptions and thresholds, taxation of services and taxation of inter-State supplies. Based on discussions within the EC and between the EC and the Central Government, the EC released its First Discussion Paper (FDP) on GST in November, 2009. This spelled out the features of the proposed GST and has formed the basis for discussion between the Centre and the States.
GST AND CENTRE-STATE FINANCIAL RELATIONS:
3. Before the enactment of the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016, fiscal powers between the Centre and the States were clearly demarcated in the Constitution with almost no overlap between the respective domains. The Centre had powers to levy tax on the manufacture of goods (except alcoholic liquor for human consumption, opium, narcotics etc.) while the States had powers to levy tax on sale of goods. In case of inter-State sales, the Centre had power to levy a tax (Central Sales Tax) but the tax was collected and retained entirely by the originating States. As for services, it was the Centre alone that was empowered to levy service tax. Since the States were not empowered to levy any tax on the sale or purchase of goods in the course of their importation into or exportation from India, the Centre levied and collected this tax as additional duties of customs, which was in addition to the Basic Customs Duty. This additional duty of customs (commonly known as CVD and SAD) counter balanced excise duties, sales tax, State VAT and other taxes levied on the like domestic products. Introduction of GST required amendments in the Constitution so as to concurrently empower the Centre and the States to levy and collect the GST.
3.1 The assignment of concurrent jurisdiction to the Centre and the States for the levy of GST required a unique institutional mechanism that would ensure that decisions about the structure, design and operation of GST are taken jointly. For it to be effective, such a mechanism also needed to have Constitutional force.
CONSTITUTION (ONE HUNDRED AND FIRST) AMENDMENT ACT, 2016:
4. To address all these and other issues, the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill was introduced in the 16th Lok Sabha on 19.12.2014. The Bill provides for a levy of GST on supply of all goods or services except for Alcohol for human consumption. The tax shall be levied as Dual GST separately but concurrently by the Union (central tax - CGST) and the States (including Union Territories with legislatures) (State tax - SGST) / Union territories without legislatures (Union territory tax- UTGST). The Parliament would have exclusive power to levy GST (integrated tax - IGST) on inter-State trade or commerce (including imports) in goods or services. The Central Government will have the power to levy excise duty in addition to the GST on tobacco and tobacco products. The tax on supply of five specified petroleum products namely crude, high speed diesel, petrol, ATF and natural gas would be levied from a later date on the recommendation of GST Council.
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