Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Govt. Constitution Bill in Lok Sabha for GST

The govt on Tuesday introduced a Constitution Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha to facilitate implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST), an indirect tax regime that would subsume levies like excise, service tax and sales tax.


The Bill, introduced by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee seeks to amend the constitution with a view to confer simultaneous powers on centre and states to levy taxes on goods and services.

"The GST would replace a number of indirect taxes presently being levied by the central government and the state governments and is intended to remove cascading of taxes and provide a common national market for goods and services", said the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill.

The Bill provides for creation of a GST Council to be headed by Union Finance Minister. The Council will be empowered to recommend tax rates and exemption and threshold limits for good and services.

Besides, the bill proposed a GST Dispute Settlement Authority to deal with grievances of the centre and the state with regard to GST.

The GST, which is considered to be a major tax reform, has been pending for the last four years due to differences between centre and some states over the structure of the new tax regime.

It will facilitate implementation of a new tax regime that subsumes levies like excise, sales and service tax.

The GST, which is considered as a major tax reform, has been pending for the last four years due to differences between centre and some states over the structure of the new tax regime.

"The decision to table the bill is a positive development. The Finance Minister was committed to bring it in the current session and he is doing that," Ernst and Young Tax Partner Harishanker Subramaniam said.

The Finance Ministry has worked on the final draft Constitution Amendment Bill, the fourth since the discussions on the new tax regime commenced.

Earlier, the first three drafts prepared by the Centre were rejected by the states citing autonomy issues.

The fourth draft, a hybrid of the second and third draft, has proposed setting up of a modified GST council through a presidential order for taking decisions on all important matters.

In addition, the composition of the GST Dispute Resolution Authority, proposed to be a part of the Constitution Amendment, will be decided by Parliament.

Furthermore, petroleum, natural gas, diesel and ATF have been kept out of the GST ambit in the final draft.

Last year, a draft Constitution Bill proposed by the Centre to the states had suggested a council chaired by the Union Finance Minister, with states as members, to make changes in GST.

The states, especially NDA-ruled ones, had raised objections to the proposal, saying it would give veto power to the Union Finance Minister over state taxation issues.

The Centre subsequently provided another draft to states, suggesting that changes in GST could be made only if there was a consensus on those issues in the council.

However, some state finance ministers did not agree to even this suggestion.
Taking into consideration the states' concerns, the Finance Ministry had then floated a third draft on the GST Constitution Amendment Bill.

Pranab withdraws proposal to levy service tax on healthcare

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has announced withdrawal of the proposed 5 percent service tax on air-conditioned hospitals with more than 25 beds and on diagnostic services.

He also provided some relief to readymade garment manufacturers by raising the abatement available for levy of taxes on retail price of some branded garments and textile made-ups.

"The purpose of the new levy (healthcare) was not merely to mobilise revenue, but to pave the way for introduction of the GST.

"However, I have decided to exempt the new levy in its entirety both in respect of services provided by hospitals as well as by way of diagnostic tests until GST comes into force", Mukherjee said while moving the Finance Bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday for consideration and passage.

The announcement was greeted with loud thumping of desks by members as the Minister hoped that it will no more be called "misery tax".

Both these proposals, mooted by the Minister as part of the budget for 2011-12 on 28th February, had evoked sharp reaction from the interest groups.

During the general discussion on the Budget last week, almost all political parties wanted the Finance Minister to withdraw the healthcare service tax proposal, which was dubbed as "misery tax".

The garment traders had criticised the proposed 10 percent excise duty on readymade garments saying it would hurt the small business.

"To address this concern, I propose to enhance the abatement of 40 percent to 55 percent on the retail sale price. With this relief a unit will continue to be eligible for SSI exemption in 2011-12 even if it had a turnover based on retail sale price of Rs 8.9 crore in the current year", the Minister said.

Intense Debate Comments

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