Nirmala Sitharaman hints at status quo on GST rates
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said she had sought an assessment of the full year collection of goods and services tax (GST) before rationalising rates, indicating that a proposal by a panel of officers to increase levies may wait until April.
The minister also advised against frequent change in rates, which had become the norm at every meeting of the GST Council, which is headed by the union finance minister, with states being members of the panel. The GST Council is the final decision-making body on rates and rules and has to meet at least once in three months.
There is a proposal for reworking the slab and increase rates on several items — ranging from branded food items to mobile phones and economy class air travel. But a decision was deferred as states wanted an assessment of the impact of the new indirect tax regime on various products. Besides, many states, including those ruled by BJP, were not in favour of increasing rates under various slabs.
At the Palkhiwala Centenary Celebration here, Sitharaman raised concerns over assessment of GST collections. “Ideally, everybody keeps telling that we must aim for one rate (GST), one tax, and one nation and so on. However, before we make such revisions, have we studied what the current rates have given us (collection) steadily for one full year?”
The minister indicated that there were suggestions for an annual revision. “We did consider if the revision of rates could be a yearly exercise, which will be done after due consideration. However, if the technical, law, and fitment committees come back saying that such reduction would lead to an inversion, then all of us must have the largeness of heart to say — sorry, this (rate revision) cannot happen.”
The FM raised complaints that every GST Council meeting, there is a big list of rate reduction on items, which even leads to discussions on changes in inverted duty structure.
‘Laws mustn’t look at biz with suspicion’
Sitharaman said the government is moving towards a direction where the law does not look at business enterprises with suspicion. She also said the industry and the government should work together to take the country’s economy to $5 trillion.
The FM said her earnest attempt is to decriminalise matters concerning the Companies Act or other related laws, and also cited Tata Group head N Chandrasekharan’s speech in Mumbai on Monday, where he had said the government should trust its own citizens.
Stressing further on the trust factor, Sitharaman said the government’s intention is not to distrust business houses and the road to $5-trillion economy will be much easier with mutual trust.
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