A buoyant government on Thursday asserted that it would stick to the deadline of 1 April 2017 for the roll-out of the goods and services tax (GST).
Accordingly, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is seeking ratification of the constitution amendment bill approved by Parliament on Wednesday by at least 16 states in the next one month, set up a GST council and table the central GST and integrated GST laws in the winter session.
“There are three things we need to do to achieve the targeted date of 1 April 2017,” said revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia.
Those are the legislative agenda, the reset of an administration that is mostly unfamiliar with a destination-based tax and putting in place the technology infrastructure.
At the same time, in the aftermath of the debate in the Rajya Sabha where an overwhelming number of MPs flagged inflation as a concern, there is growing pressure on states to settle for a GST rate lower than what they initially desired.
Addressing a press conference, finance minister Arun Jaitley hinted that the standard tax rate under GST could be higher than the 17%-19% proposed by a committee of the central government.
Jaitley said the GST council, which will decide the rates, will have to strike the right balance in the trade-off between high rates consistent with revenue growth and low rates that will be less inflationary.
“A balance between the two will have to be struck. It is a matter of calculation. CEA (chief economic adviser) believes that a more reasonable rate is possible. Some states have a contrarian view. How we are able to converge this over the next few months, we will have to see,” he said, adding that the chief economic adviser had not proposed an 18% tax rate but had instead suggested a range of 16.9-18.9%.
“Whether there will be inflation will depend on what will be the slabs and what will be the rates under GST,” he said.