Relief to consumers, under GST, tax rates for most goods to fall

Real tax incidence, not nominal rate, to be basis for fitment.

Dubbed as the biggest tax reform since Independence, GST will unify at least 10 indirect taxes into one to be collected at state and central levels.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council’s resolve to minimise rate shocks will result in reduction in the nominal tax rates for a vast majority of goods. Half of the items in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) basket will be exempt from GST and another tenth will be taxed at the lowest rate of 5%. The balance CPI goods would come under either of the two standard rates of 12% or 18%, rather than the highest rate of 28%.

Though the current nominal tax rates for some CPI goods and many other mass-consumption and everyday use items like mobile phones, refrigerators, cosmetics and baked food are close to the highest GST rate of 28%, these too will likely fall under 18% GST, sources privy to the discussions in the council’s technical committee on fitment of rates told FE.

The government had iterated that the GST rate for an item will be, to the extent possible, the one that is nearest to the current rate. However, according to the sources, what the council will take into account is the real tax incidence at present rather than the nominal rate. For instance, if the nominal tax rate on an item with maximum retail price of `150 and ex-factory price of `100 is 26.5% (12.5% excise and 14% VAT), the real tax incidence on the price to the consumer could be just over 22%, as the excise duty is virtually levied on the ex-factory price, with abatement for post-manufacturing value addition.

Manufacturing units below the `1.5-crore turnover threshold enjoy excise exemption and currently pay only VAT on the final products. If the items manufactured by such units are brought under 28% GST rate, for the reason that nominal tax rate on the items is close to it, they would be hit hard. So the council would take the real excise incidence on the ex-factory value of the item as the basis for GST rate determination. Assuming that half of the sector manufacturing the item mentioned above is excise exempt, the real tax incidence, when nominal tax rate is 26.5%, could be just 18% (see chart).

“Under the GST regime, tax would apply on the transaction value of the product. Therefore, the correct excise incidence would be the actual excise duty paid expressed as a percentage of the final price to the customer,” said R Muralidharan, senior director, Deloitte Haskins & Sells.

However, items that currently suffer a real tax incidence around 28% and above will come under the highest GST rate of 28%, and so will the four demerit items — tobacco and tobacco products, aerated beverages, luxury cars and pan masala — on which the nominal taxes now are 40-60%, including cesses. Analysts also noted that since the VAT rates on items vary across the states, the fitment of GST rates should be on the basis of the weighted average VAT incidence.
Currently, over 300 items are exempt from excise duty and an average of 100 items are exempt from state VAT.

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