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GST (goods and services tax) advent gives Centre room for hike in excise duty
February, 20th 2013

Although there are various estimates by government and independent agencies of a revenue-neutral rate (RNR) for the goods and services tax (GST), it is clear that the Centre has room to raise the excise and service tax rates in the run-up to the proposed comprehensive indirect tax likely to be ushered in from 2014-15. With few options to boost revenue buoyancy and a tough fiscal deficit target of 4.8% set for 2013-14, finance minster P Chidambaram might look at the option of raising the median central excise duty from 12% at present by one or two percentage points in the Budget. The policy of having a negative list of service tax might help boost revenue from this head, which still remains the fastest-growing one but has shown signs of a plateauing in the last couple of years.

After the recent Centre-state consensus on issues that so far delayed the introduction of GST, officials of the central and state governments are now struggling to agree on the structure of the “destination-based consumption tax” that militates against tax cascades and is expected to yield an additional one and half percentage points in GDP growth. As the table shows, the RNR for GST estimated by various agencies is much below the arithmetic total of central excise/service tax and state VAT rates at present. Of course, combined (Centre-state) GST rates being discussed among policymakers are much higher (from 16% to 20%) and so the Centre has flexibility to raise rates for a year.

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