GST: A Concrete Road Map that one looks for in the Budget Policy
The presentation of the Union Budget 2014-15 is about a fortnight away. It is everyone’s hope that the policies are “business friendly” and conducive to accelerated growth of the Indian economy. The fiscal role of Government has been comprehensively outlined by Richard Grave (1959) by means of the triad of allocation, distribution and stabilization. Among the State’s fiscal powers is its right to levy tax.
The Goods & Service Tax (GST) is intended to be a harmonized tax on goods and services across all of India’s states. It is a component of the fiscal structure meant to replace many of the multilayered indirect tax regimes currently prevailing in India. It is claimed that GST will be a simplified form of taxation that will achieve the multiple objectives of:
Lowering tax burden;
Expanding the tax base; and
Increasing tax collections.
One hopes that the budget policy of the State for the year 2014-15 will contain specific steps towards a GST regime. After all, conceptual discussion of GST started almost 14 years ago, in 2000. For six years thereafter, there was not much action in the move towards GST. The concept resurfaced in the 2007 budget with the then Finance Minister announcing that GST would be implemented by the year 2010. Many actions were initiated- including the setting up of Empowered Committees and Joint Working Groups. But many reports, recommendations and comments later, we are not particularly closer to a GST regime- even though a Constitution Amendment Bill was tabled to provide for the levy of GST.
One hopes that the government will use budget 2014-15 to announce a time-frame for introducing GST. But one also hopes that in doing so, the mandarins of the Finance Ministry will take into account the requests/concerns raised by various stakeholders, including through the submission of pre-budget memoranda. Some key points are listed below:
An opportunity to industries to revisit of the draft GST paper and offer their comments.
Finality in respect of which indirect taxes are to be subsumed by GST
Assurance that no new taxes will be introduced after the introduction of GST.
Transitional provisions to ensure continuity of existing benefits.
An anomaly pointed out by trade associations is around prohibition of cross utilisation of credits- as a result of which business entities may have to forego the benefit of credit but at the same time, also make payment.
No denial or reduction of concessions as related to movement of goods on stock transfer, exports etc as it exists now.
The roll-out of GST is so near and perhaps yet so far. It cannot be implemented without the concerns being resolved. One can only hope- again- that the budget policy 2014-15 will contains a more concrete roadmap for early roll-out of a GST regime in India as the benefits are claimed to be considerable for both sides..