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Budget 2015: Cut complexity & introduce simplicity in indirect tax:
February, 24th 2015

Every budget is treated as a yardstick of Government’s economic reform policies; in addition to that this year’s budget is the first one from a majority Government since last 30 years. Accordingly, the industry and the masses profoundly wait the unleashing of the reforms agenda, more so in case of indirect taxes and the much awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST).

A clear road map in form of draft legislation or a white paper is expected to be introduced in the public domain at the earliest to gear up for the smooth transition to the GST. As a step towards the introduction of the GST, indirect tax rate rationalisation is expected whereby some goods and services may move to the lower duty bracket while others, including peak service tax rate, could slightly move up to the higher duty range.

As indirect tax collections gradually but steadily rise every year, the expectations of the assesee for clear legislation and simple procedures are very rational and judicious. One of the expectations is to bring in line the plethora of instructions and circulars that are churned out all throughout the year by the Revenue, thereby adding only to the muddle. One such instance was the service tax Circular issued with respect to taxability of the foreign money transfer service operators. It is hoped that the revenue would come up with one master circular instead of individual circulars issued in the previous years. Keeping in mind the object of simplification of taxation structure, it is expected that the education cess and secondary & higher education cess are merged and the duty rates be rationalised to include the different cesses. The loss on tax collection from this front is expected to be sheltered by further trimming down the exemptions.

Particularly in the service tax legislations, the introduction of reverse charge mechanism on specific services has created complexity in compliances and confusion with respect to the liability of payment and on the amount of payment, resulting is unnecessary litigation and hardship. It is expected that the reverse charge mechanism is trimmed down, if not completely removed, to cover very exceptional situations. In addition, clarifications are expected on intermediary services, services to self, liquidated damages, bad debts and reimbursement of expenses.

On the excise front, some of the industry players, especially pharma industry, expect correction of the inverted duty structure. The food processing industry vehemently desires that the concessional rate of duty on process/packing machinery be extended to the whole industry instead of only certain categories. The cement companies expect a uniform rate instead of MRP based, ad valorem based or ad valorem cum specific based, dependent on the manner of packaging.

While the cement industry desires uniformity, the textile players want rationalisation of customs duty as the difference in product description under sub-classification cannot be determined by physical verification that causes delay in clearing the goods. Yet another imperative expectation on the customs front is exclusion of value of services liable to service tax from the value of imported goods.

With this in the minds of the tax payers, it is to be seen whether the Government delivers in line with its development agenda and take significant steps towards major reforms.

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