GST Panel approves 4 tier tax rate of 5 to 28%

Krishnanand Tripathi
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi after the meeting of GST Council.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi after the meeting of GST Council.

GST Council today approved a 4 tier tax structure for the common goods and services tax to be implemented across the country from April next year. The lowest rate under GST is fixed at 5%  which would cover half the items in CPI basket. While 2 basic rates are fixed at 12 and 18% and the highest rate for luxury items is fixed at 28%.

Luxury items like high-end cars and demerit goods including tobacco, pan masala and aerated drinks would also attract a cess in a way that the total incidence of tax remains at almost the current level.

With a view to safeguarding the interest of poor and keeping inflation under check, half the items in CPI basket like foodgrains, would not be taxed at all, while there would be two standard tax rates of 12 and 18 per cent.

The lowest rate of 5 per cent would be for common use items under the GST regime targetted to be rolled out from April 1, 2017.

After differences kept away a consensus on the issue at the last meeting, the all-powerful GST Council, headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, has decided to impose an additional cess. It would be the difference between the current incidence and the 28 per cent rate, not leading to increase in the final taxation.

Tobacco currently attracts about 65 per cent total tax and for aerated drinks the current rate is about 40 per cent.

Announcing the decisions arrived at the first day of the two-day GST Council meeting, Jaitley said highest tax slab will be applicable to items which are currently taxed at 30-31 per cent (excise duty of 12.5 per cent plus VAT 14.5 pc).

“Finally the consensus is that these items, with cascading effect of 30-31 per cent, will now be taxed at 28 per cent, but with a rider. And the rider is that in this category there are several items which are now being used increasingly by a very large number of people, particularly the lower middle class. So for them 28 or 30 or 31 per cent rate will be higher, and so we are transferring them to 18 per cent,” Jaitley told reporters here.

The final list of items for each tax bracket will be worked out by a committee, Jaitley said, adding that soap, oil, shaving stick, toothpaste and such products will likely to move down to 18 per cent bracket.

Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian said the rate structure “should probably serve to lower inflation…and should probably bring it down.”

For most items, GST will be excise duty plus VAT and that incidence will decide on which tax bracket particular goods or items fall into.