National

Further pruning of GST rates possible: Assam Minister

Agency | November 14, 2017 06:21 PM

GUWAHATI: After reducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates on many items of daily consumption, the Council may further prune the GST rates on goods depending on the revenue buoyancy, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said here on Tuesday.

Sarma, one of the members of the GST Council, also said the deliberations on tax rates relating to handicrafts, handloom and inclusion of real estate in the new indirect tax regime would be taken up at the next meeting scheduled for January-end next year.

"In the next GST Council meeting, there will be deliberation on handloom and handicraft and even on the real estate issues," he said on the sidelines of the inauguration of a manufacturing plant of FMCG company Emami at Pacharia, about 25 km from the city.

"Pruning of rates (on goods) is a continuous process, but it has to be seen in terms of revenue buoyancy. As and when a higher revenue growth or buoyancy is established, there is a scope for pruning of rates (on goods). It is not that all the items from 28 per cent bracket can come down as there are many luxury goods in the bracket and from there the government gets revenue. But pruning is still possible," he added.

Citing example of paints and cement which were kept in the higher tax bracket, he explained that these are common items, but alternatively these are sources of revenue for the government.

"If for cement, the rate is cut down by 10 per cent, the revenue involvement would be more than Rs 5,000 crore. There is a question whether the government will take that kind of risk or not."

When asked whether the government would reduce the number of tax slabs in the GST, Sarma said: "We do not see any reason why it should come down. Hundreds of taxes were handled just five months before... now four-rate structure (in GST) is a big thing in itself. In our agenda, we were never worried about the structure. The structure was not an issue."

On inclusion of real estate in the GST ambit, he said an approach paper was tabled at the recent meeting in Guwahati.

"But it could not be taken up for discussion," he said, adding that issues such as architecture, surrender of stamp duty, multiplicity of taxes (across states) have to be discussed before it is brought under the GST.

Asserting that it is a live issue before the GST Council, Sarma said the idea is to bring real estate under GST.

"So, if it is brought under GST then there cannot be multiple taxes (stamp duty). Now, whether the states will be ready to surrender stamp duty or whether stamp duty will be taken as nature of goods, this architecture has to be developed."

The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been asked to develop a proper national e-way bill system, but they are yet to come up with the required software, the minister said.

Sarma also said the inclusion of petroleum and diesel is unlikely to be brought under GST immediately, adding that deliberation on that is not expected in the next meeting.

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