The historic Central Hall of Parliament will host a midnight function on June 30 to launch the sweeping tax reform of GST, reminiscent of India’s tryst with destiny on the midnight of August 15, 1947. The government will use the circular-shaped Central Hall, perhaps for the first time, to launch a new taxation system that is set to dramatically re-shape the over USD 2 trillion economy. The launch event will in all probability start at 11 pm on June 30 and extend into midnight, coinciding with the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, official sources said.
A gong will be sounded at midnight to signify that GST has arrived. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the key speaker at the function where President Pranab Mukherjee is also being invited. The GST Bill was originally piloted by Mukherjee when he was the Finance Minister in the previous UPA regime. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would also occupy the high table along with another former prime minister H D Deve Gowda in the Central Hall during the event.
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Chief Ministers of all states will be invited for the event as GST represented an unprecedented exercise in fiscal federalism, sources said, adding GST Council members will be the guests. The GST Council, that brings together the central and state governments, has met 17 times to thrash out how the tax will work. Originally, the launch of GST, which has been in works for over a decade, was to be done from Vigyan Bhawan — the largest convention centre in the national capital that has hosted majority of the meetings of the GST Council.
But the historic Central Hall was thought to be a better choice considering the importance of the new tax code that unifies more than a dozen separate levies to create a single market with a population greater than the US, Europe, Brazil, Mexico and Japan put together. GST will simplify a web of taxes, regulations and border levies by subsuming an array of central and state levies including excise duty, service tax and VAT.
It will gradually re-shape India’s business landscape, making the world’s fastest-growing major economy an easier place to do business. GST has been dubbed as the most significant economic reform since BJP government came to power in 2014 and is expected to add as much as 2 percentage points to the GDP growth rate besides raising government revenues by widening the tax net. A four-rate structure that exempts or imposes a low rate of tax of 5 per cent on essential items and top rate of 28 per cent on cars and consumer durables has been finalised. The other slabs of tax are 12 and 18 per cent.