With many doubts and concerns still looming over India’s most comprehensive tax reform, the 17th meeting of the GST Council is expected to make things much more clear. In the one-day meeting at Vigyan Bhawan on 18 June, the Council will finalise tax rates on lotteries, rules relating to e-way bills and anti-profiteering measures. The Council may also review rates on certain items, and approve draft GST rules and the related forms for an advance ruling, appeals and revision, and assessment and audit.
The Council, which has till now fixed rates of more than 1200 goods and over 500 services, is also likely to discuss the GST rate for the telecom sector, which has currently been fixed at 18 per cent. Telecom service providers have argued that an 18 per cent GST rate, which is 3 per cent higher than the current rate of service tax applicable to the sector, will adversely affect the telecom industry, which is already under a considerable stress due to declining revenues.
The Council may also review the tax rate on hybrid cars as the manufacturers have opposed the proposed GST rate of 43 per cent on hybrid cars and requested the government to review the same. However, Jaitley had earlier mentioned that the item shall not be reviewed, saying the industry demands were not in sync with a study conducted by tax officers. In the last meeting of the Council on 11 June, tax rates on 66 items, including agarbatti, packaged food and insulin, were lowered.
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With GST implementation just two weeks away, there are many roadblocks that India’s biggest tax overhaul may face, ranging from lack of proper infrastructure to government’s own ministries reportedly asking for the implementation of the new tax regime to be postponed for a couple of months. Although the concerned ministry has now fallen in line, and the government has repeatedly reiterated its resolve to roll out GST from 1 July, doubts over the manner in which the most comprehensive tax regime till date will be implemented coupled with some dissatisfactions from different sections of the stakeholders involved has everyone on tenterhooks.