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FinMin may form core group to expedite GST rollout
May, 18th 2010

As the finance ministry is racing against time to meet the April 2011 deadline for rolling out the Goods and Services Tax, or GST, it plans to form a core group of tax officials to speed up the work on the proposed tax regime, which will replace most of the existing indirect taxes like service tax, excise duty and local levies.

The group, proposed to be headed by former director general of audit, Gautam Ray, will assist the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) in drafting papers and finalising rules for GST.

The committee is likely to be in place by the end of this month, subject to approval by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

We need a dedicated group for GST and want a recently retired officer with good credentials to head it. Ray retired in March this year and is well conversant with developments in GST after having served as a joint secretary in the tax research unit of CBEC a few years ago, said a finance ministry official who did not wish to be identified as the proposal is yet to receive official clearance.

The group will also comprise about five more officers in the rank of joint commissioner and deputy commissioner. It will coordinate with the existing team of CBEC officials working on GST, consisting of member (central excise), member (budget), commissioner (central excise) and two joint secretaries.

The existing team of CBEC officials has got other routine work as well. Once this group is set up, all the work related to GST rollout will be delegated to it and CBEC officials will mainly coordinate with the empowered group of state finance ministers for deciding the GST framework, said another official.

The finance ministry has proposed to the states that the second discussion paper on GST should be jointly drafted by the Centre and the states so that there is convergence on the issues. The core group will help draft the paper if the states agree to the proposal.

This group will be similar to the task force set up for revising the Direct Taxes Code. The government has posted seven commissioners and joint commissioners of income-tax as officers on special duty (OSD) in the Tax Policy & Legislation division of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). The officers are working with the joint secretaries and directors in CBDT to prepare the draft Bill by next month.

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