As part of the strategy to gradually phase out tax sops, the finance ministry is considering lowering the threshold for excise duty exemption for businesses in the upcoming Budget.
Businesses with an annual turnover of less than Rs 1.5 crore are exempt from Central excise duty. A lower limit would bring more traders under the tax net and add to indirect tax collections.
Under the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the government had suggested a uniform threshold of Rs 10 lakh for both the Centre and states. The finance ministry might not be in a position to bring it down to that level in the Budget, but some reduction was not ruled out, said a government official. The finance ministry had considered reducing the threshold last year too, but it later decided to postpone the idea to avoid a blow to the small-scale industries due to the difficult economic situation.
Indications are that the new limit may be fixed at Rs 50 lakh, if the proposal goes through, and it may be reduced further to Rs 10 lakh in GST.
While the Centre wants a uniform threshold for the Centre and states, the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers had suggested that the limit should be kept at Rs 10 lakh for states and Rs 1.5 crore for the Centre to protect interests of small traders.
At present, value-added tax (VAT) threshold is Rs 5 lakh for most big states. It varies for other states.
States say a uniform GST threshold limit of Rs 10 lakh is not practical, as it would pinch small industries, which would have to pass on the burden to consumers, making items of daily use dearer.
The Union governments argument is that such small businesses below Rs 1.5 crore could be compensated. Apart from a minimum audit based on risk parameters, they may be spared from filing tax returns frequently.
The combined tax-to-GDP ratio of the country declined to 15.1 per cent in 2010-11, against 17.5 per cent in 2007-08. It is likely to fall further this year due to a slowdown in tax collections.
With GST being delayed further due to differences between the Centre and the states, the government wants to go ahead with some crucial tax reforms.
A change in excise duty threshold could be part of its plan, which also includes introduction of a negative list for taxation of services, point of taxation rules and place of supply rules.
The proposed measures could give a significant boost to the governments revenue collections, which are likely to fall short of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjees expectations.