Vigilant that businesses don’t hike prices using the goods and services tax (GST) as an excuse, the government on Tuesday said firms must advertise such moves in two or more newspapers even though higher maximum retail price (MRP) stickers can be affixed on old stocks for a period of three months starting July 1. While the government hasn’t yet threatened the industry with the use of the dreaded anti-profiteering provision, it has asked designated officials to report specific instances of price rise “in real time to consumer affairs and revenue departments”.
Since it reckons that the genuine cases of price increases for essential and daily-use items under GST would be few — GST is zero on 50% of consumer price index basket and 5% on another 10% — a notification issued by the consumer affairs ministry said: “The difference between the retail sale price originally printed on the package and the revised price shall not, in any case, be higher than the extent of increase in tax” or what is warranted from imposition of fresh tax due to GST.
While the three-month window when add-on stickers are tolerated would be available for both price hikes/reductions, the need to advertise the move will be only for those who hike prices. The MRP change attributable to GST has to be declared by way of additional stamping or a sticker but the previous MRP must continue to be visible.
Clearing misgivings among consumers due to small traders not providing bills showing GST paid, revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia clarified that businesses under the composition scheme (those with an annual turnover up to `75 lakh) won’t be required to issue such bills. Bigger ones (registered businesses), however, are required to issue GST-included bills but not necessarily computer-generated receipts.
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Hand-written receipts with a proper invoice number that could be added and attached in returns would be good enough.
Stating that there have been no reports of any disruptions following the implementation of GST, Adhia said a central monitoring committee comprising of 15 top secretaries will meet every Tuesday to take stock of the situation. Separately, an official notification said that over 200 senior central government officers have been tasked with monitoring district-level implementation issues with a focus on resolving difficulties faced by consumers. The government has clubbed each district of the country into 166 clusters, aligning them with the administrative divisions of the central revenue department, it added. Each of these clusters has been assigned to officers ranking joint secretary and above.
The revenue secretary said that levies like toll, mandi charges and fee on vehicle entry into states will continue to exist in the GST regime. As many as 22 states have already abolished their border checkposts thanks to GST and the process of dismantling such barriers would be completed in a month.
On the issue of registration for GST, the revenue secretary said about 2 lakh new registrations have been done since the registration reopened last week. Of these, 39,000 have already been approved.