Disability organisations today said aids and appliances used by disabled persons were tax free before the GST regime came into force and the government’s claim of five per cent tax at a concessional rate on them was an “eye wash”. They said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council’s media release of July 4, which asserted that imposition of 5 per cent GST on disability is a ‘win-win’ situation for all concerned, was both “incorrect and misleading”. “Pre-GST, barring cars for physically handicapped, all disability aids and appliances did not attract any levy,” V Muralidharan from the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) claimed. He said while these items are essential for persons with disabilities, without which their mobility, education, employment and exercise of their rights and duties is curtailed, attract a GST of five per cent, many items used for ‘puja’ are completely exempt.
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Also exempt are items like kumkum, bindi, bangles while unpolished diamonds attract a GST of a mere 0.25 per cent and polished diamonds and gold only 3 per cent, he added. “Diapers used by certain categories of the disabled and the elderly are also taxed at 12 per cent. This, lays bare the priorities of the government,” said a statement issued by disabled organisation which included Delhi Viklang Adhikar Manch, Wheelchair Trust of India, Differently-Abled Welfare Federation, Kerala, Infinite Ability, Disability Rights Alliance, December 3rd Movement and National Association of the Blind, among others. The organisations further expressed regret that despite widespread protests across the country and the prevailing confusion, no revision in rates or clarification was made.
In its clarification of July 4, the GST Council had contended that the compelling reason for imposing the “concessional rate” of 5 per cent was for the domestic manufacturer to claim input tax credit for raw material used to make these products. “By keeping it in a very reasonable rate of 5 per cent manufacturer will be able to pay 5 per cent out of input tax credit and the remaining amount will be refunded back to him. So the price of this commodity should come down because of this,” Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia had said. At zero per cent tax rate, import of wheel chair and other equipment would have come in duty free and domestic production could have stopped completely, Adhia had said.
“It needs to be clarified that items like Braille printer, refreshable Braille display and Braille note-taker, talking watches and clocks, audio labelling devices, talking thermometer, talking weighing machine, talking scales, etc. are entirely imported items and did not attract any taxes earlier,” said the statement by the disability organisations.
As for taxes on domestically-manufactured items, raw materials like aluminium extrusions, square tubes and round tubes of aluminium used in the manufacture of artificial limbs or many rehabilitation aids were earlier exempt from tax, it added.