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This session, Govt. may bring constitution amendment bill on GST
March, 16th 2011

The Government today gave green signal to the Constitution Amendment Bill indicating a strong desire to push the Goods and Services Tax, despite lack of consensus among states for implementing the new regime on indirect taxes.

It will try to introduce the Bill in the ongoing Budget Session itself which concludes on March 25.

We will try to introduce it in Parliament in this (Budget) session, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters here.

Although the Bill was approved in principal by the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, there was a view in the Cabinet that the draft of the proposed legislation was not perfect in nature, sources said.

Therefore, the law ministry has been asked to fine tune the Bill, they added.

Sources said a lot of issues, particularly those raised by states, would be sorted out when it is discussed by the Standing Committee to which it would be referred to after being introduced in Parliament.

When the Bill is referred to Standing Committee of Finance, state governments and other stakeholders will get a chance to suggest changes to make it acceptable to all, a source added.

The GST will subsume indirect taxes such as excise duty and service tax at the central level and VAT on the states front, besides local levies.

The Finance Ministry has worked on the final draft Amendment Bill, the fourth since the discussions on the new tax regime started. The first three drafts were rejected by various states raising concerns over their autonomy.

The fourth draft, a hybrid of the second and third draft, has proposed that the GST council for taking decisions on all important matters will be formed through a Presidential order.

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

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.

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