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Editorial: GST, After One Year…

Port Wings, 04 July 2018:

India is celebrating the first anniversary of the launch of the Goods and Services Tax, which began with a symbolic ringing of the bell as a midnight session of the Indian Parliament on July 1, 2017.  The jury is out to decide whether it has achieved its purpose or not, the reality is that it has indeed changed the dynamics of tax collection in our country.

The earlier indirect tax regime had tolerated, and in some ways, encouraged the cascading effect of levying taxes on taxes.

But GST has introduced seamless track of taxes and ushered an era of reduction in the cost of production of commodities and transparency in the quantum of taxes paid by the supplier of goods and services.

The fundamental prerequisite for the implementation of GST was that the states and the centre had to pool in their constitutional powers to tax and share the responsibility to oversee and govern implementation of GST in India.

The GST Council, having representation from all states, union territories, and the centre, has done an admirable job thus far. The Council met about 27 times and arrived at all decisions unanimously.

It is commendable on the part of GST Council to arrive at the decisions on a consistent basis despite the differences in political philosophy between the political parties in different states.

Some of the major decisions taken by the GST Council can be summarised as – reduction in the rate of taxes, extension of due dates in filing returns, postponement of reverse charge applicable on procurements from unregistered persons, postponement of requirement of an E-Way Bill when the system was not ready, increase in the threshold limits for composition scheme, quarterly return filing for small taxpayers, restoration of export incentives, relaxation in respect of compliances relating to refunds, etc.

When the government announced the implementation date for GST, it seemed that the industry was not ready to accept and adopt GST, and was caught by surprise when the government refused to extend the date of implementation any further.

Perhaps, industry was not completely ready for the implementation. Despite all of this, taxpayers suffered numerous difficulties that resulted in frustration while filing returns and claiming refunds.

The government had to undertake the unenviable task of setting up the IT infrastructure and getting it right, all while it is running.

Overall, the Indian taxpayers and the government have both experience a difficult one year and the long terrain for GST in coming years needs to be paved well, so that the stakeholders accept the change from their heart and support the new taxing system.

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