GST on 29 items, 54 services cut; Return filing to be simpler


New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia during a GST meeting at Vigyan Bhavan, in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI Photo

New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia during a GST meeting at Vigyan Bhavan, in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI Photo

The all-powerful GST Council has cut tax rate on 29 goods, including second-hand vehicles, confectionery and bio-diesel, while veering around to simplifying return filing process for businesses.

Also, tax rate on 54 categories of services, including certain job works, tailoring services and admission to theme parks, have been lowered.

The panel at its next meeting may also consider bringing under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) purview items like petroleum and real estate which are currently outside the new regime, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.

The Council cut GST rate on second-hand medium and large cars and SUVs from 28 per cent to 18 per cent and on other old and used motor vehicles to 12 per cent.

Tax on diamonds and precious stones was slashed to 0.25 per cent from current 3 per cent.

While tax rate for bio-diesel was slashed to 12 per cent from 18 per cent, that for public transport buses run on environment-friendly bio-fuels has been reduced to 18 per cent from 28 per cent previously.

Tax rate on irrigation equipment, sugar boiled confectionery, drinking water packed in 20-litre bottles, fertiliser grade phosphoric acid, tamarind kernel power, mehendi paste in cones, LPG supplied by private distributors, articles of straw, velvet fabric and rice bran was also cut.

The new rates would be effective from January 25.

The tax rate cut on 29 goods and 54 services would result in a revenue loss of around Rs 1,000 crore, sources said. The Council, in its 25th meeting today, also discussed process to make return filing simpler with just one return to be filed every month.

Infosys non-executive chairman Nandan Nilekani made a presentation on simplification of the return filing process. The Council discussed the possibility of retaining only GSTR- 3B or initial sales return, while mandating sellers to upload their invoices.

Jaitley said the GSTR-3B and the invoices can be matched by tax officers; and in case of difference, at a later stage businesses can be asked to explained.

“It was finally culminating into filing 3B returns and supplier invoice, which would be adequate,” he said, adding that the Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, GSTN chairman Ajay Bhusan Pandey and Nilekani would formalise the structure and a final decision would be taken at the next meeting of the Council.

Asked if filing only one return is the way forward, he said “that seems to be the course”.

Businesses at present have to file GSTR-3B as well as GSTR-1, which is the final invoice wise sales returns. Jaitley said the next meeting may also consider bringing items that are currently in GST within the new tax regime.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) was rolled out from July 1, 2017 by subsuming most of the Central and State indirect taxes into a single tax. But, crude oil, natural gas, diesel, petrol and ATF have not been included in the ambit of GST as of now.

Also, real estate was kept out of the GST.

The minister further said that a nation-wide roll out of e-way bill will happen on February 1 for inter-state transportation of goods through roads. Additionally, 15 states have said they will also start off with e-way bill for intra-state movement of goods on the same day.

“Therefore, the trade and transport industry have to comply with,” he said, adding that the e-way bill would act as anti-evasion measure.

In view of declining GST revenues, the Council, chaired by Jaitley and comprising his state counterparts, today reviewed the collections in the new indirect tax regime.

Jaitley said so far the government was relying on unilateral declaration made by the business, and in view of declining collections, there was a need for anti-evasion measure.

“So far it was voluntary compliance without anti-evasion measures. With all anti-evasion measures put in place, the collections will pick up,” he said.

The GST revenue mop-up has been steadily declining over the month as from over Rs 95,000 crore collected in July, it has come down to about Rs 81,000 crore in November.

Jaitley further said that tax revenues from businesses opting for composition scheme was a matter of “serious concern” as 17 lakh businesses who have opted for the scheme have paid a cumulative tax of Rs 307 crore in the first quarter.

“There seem to be under declaration as far as collections from composition scheme are concerned,” he said.

Some tweaking in the scheme is expected when the Council discusses amending the Central GST, State GST and Integrated GST Acts in its next meeting, which will be held through video conferencing.

The amendments to these laws would be placed before Parliament in the second leg of Budget session. The first phase of the session will be from January 29 to February 9.

After a recess, Parliament will meet again from March 5 to April 6.

Besides, in view of a hefty Rs 35,000 crore unclaimed credit lying in form of IGST collections, the Council also decided to provisionally divide the amount equally between the Centre and states.

“It will ease indirect tax position of the Centre and states. In direct taxes, we are ahead of target… In last few months, direct tax has grown substantially,” he said.

Besides, the Council also accepted the report of the CBEC Chairperson Vanaja Sarna headed committee on handicraft sector. Now the fitment committee will decide on which handicraft items the rates could be lowered.

Deloitte India Director M S Mani said the e-way bill is only the first step in curbing GST leakages.

“Several more steps such as reintroduction of reverse charge on transactions with unregistered dealers, scrutiny and audits should now be expected,” Mani said.