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What is this big tax reform about? A short guide to understanding the draft GST bill
June, 15th 2016

According to the task force report on the goods and services tax, "the goal of a rational tax system is to empower households to engage in undistorted decision making, driven by their own needs and preferences.” Under this structure, all different stages of production and distribution can be interpreted as a mere tax pass-through, and the tax essentially ‘sticks’ on final consumption within the taxing jurisdiction. This is the reason why the task force has recommended the introduction of a destination-based VAT-type dual Goods and Services Tax (hereafter referred to as ‘GST’).

An ideal GST regime intends to create a harmonised system of taxation by subsuming all indirect taxes under one tax. It seeks to address challenges with the current indirect tax regime by broadening the tax base, eliminating cascading of taxes, increasing compliance and reducing economic distortions caused by inter-state variations in taxes.

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTIA file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

GST rate was not specified in the constitutional amendment bill, as desired by the Congress. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said there was complete consensus at the empowered committee meeting that there should be no constitutional cap on the GST rate.

Here are a few salient features of the GST bill:

• All forms of "supply" of goods and services such as sale, transfer, barter, exchange, license, rental, lease and import of services of goods and services made for a consideration will attract CGST (central levy) and SGST (state levy).

• As GST will apply on "supply", the erstwhile taxable heads such as "manufacture", "sale" and "provision of services", among others, will lose relevance.
• The liability to pay CGST or SGST will arise at the time of supply.

• With GST to be applicable according to whether a transaction is "intra-state" or "inter-state", separate provisions are there to help an assessee determine the place of supply for goods and services.

• States will draft their own State GST based on the draft model law with minor variations.

• GST would be payable on "transaction value", being the price actually paid or payable, and said to include all expenses in relation to sale, such as packing and commission.

• As the threshold limit, the draft GST Bill proposes Rs 10 lakh, and for Northeast states and Sikkim, an amount of Rs 5 lakh.

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