The anxious wait for consumers and corporates has finally come to an end with the GST Council announcing GST rates for various goods and services. The speculation around the possible tax rates and sectors that are likely to benefit have been put to rest.
In the 2-day-long meeting, the council finalized tax rates for 500 services and 1,200 goods. As we rightly speculated in our last blog, the GST slabs are pegged at 5%, 12%, 18%, and 28%.
A quick analysis shows that 81% items fall in the 18% tax rate category and only 19% fall under the 18% or higher slabs. This will provide a major thrust to the Make in India initiative, as manufacturing is likely to become an attractive proposition for companies operating in India. But services are ought to become costlier with an 18% tax rate on necessary ones such as telecom, insurance, and banking.
The government hails this as a historic financial reform that will benefit the common man. Mr. Hasmukh Adhia, Revenue Secretary, has said that the inflation rate will decline 2% post implementation of GST. It will also spur demand in the economy. The rationale behind lower inflation is that there is a cascading effect in the current indirect tax regime that in turn leads to higher cost of goods and services. A free flow of credits across transactions under the GST framework will bring down the tax obligation for businesses.
Below is an indicative list of various items and rates:
|0%||Eggs, Milk, Butter, Chicken, Fresh Fruits, and Vegetables||Education, Healthcare, and Hotels (tariff < INR 1,000)|
|5%||Coal, Sweets, Lifesaving Drugs, Edible Oil, Sugar, Spices, Tea, and Coffee||Railways, Cabs, and Small Restaurants (sales < INR 5 million)|
|12%||Butter, Cheese, Ghee, and Mobiles||Non-AC Hotels, Business Class Air Travel, and Hotels (tariff <INR 2,500)|
|18%||Capital Goods, Computers, Soap, Toothpaste, and Branded Goods||AC Restaurant, Telecom, and IT & Financial Services|
|28%||Cars, Motorcycles, Consumer Durables such as TV, and Sin Items such as cigarettes and aerated drinks (15% extra cess)||Cinema, 5-star Hotels, and Betting|
Click Here to find the complete list of GST rates.
The rates for the remaining items such as gold and alcohol are likely to be decided in the next GST council meeting scheduled for June 3.
A high-level analysis of tax changes on various goods and services seems to indicate that people in the lower income strata of the society may become a major beneficiary of lower prices and the middle and elite class may not benefit much from the new tax rates, at least in terms of prices.
Below are some arguments to this end:
- Eggs, milk, bread, and vegetables have been exempted under GST. But processed food will attract a 12% tax rate (largely consumed by middle/elite class)
- Budget hotels with tariff less than INR 1,000 are exempt. But AC restaurants will attract an 18% tax. The rate is even higher for 5-star hotels at 28%
- Consumer durables such as AC and fridge fall under the 28% tax slab
- Cinema will also attract a 28% tax and is being treated at par with speculative activities such as casinos and gambling
- Necessary services such as insurance, which forms a large chunk of expenditure these days, will attract an 18% tax rate vs. 15% currently
- Branded apparels will come under the 18% tax slab
The overall economic growth is expected to get a major boost, with the ease of doing business expected to improve in the upcoming months. This may be a major catalyst in job creation – one of the major areas in which the government is facing criticism these days.
Can’t companies pass on tax benefits to end consumers?
To ensure that the tax benefits are passed to end consumers, the GST law contains a provision that allows the centre to establish an anti-profiteering authority. The authority will ensure that a reduction in tax rates under GST is passed on to consumers.
Impact on MSMEs
Currently, many unorganized MSMEs evade the indirect tax net by dealing mostly in cash. To bring MSMEs in the tax net, the excise duty exemption, which was up to INR 1.5 crores, has now been reduced to INR 20 lacs under GST. This will help in higher tax income from MSMEs for the government.
There will be an increase in the share of organized sector in the economy. It is expected that with GST compliance mechanisms, companies will prefer to buy from established organized players to claim input credit (probability of small unorganized business not depositing GST tax on sales is much higher). Players in the unorganized sector must pull up their socks and adjust to the new paradigm.
In the times to come, it will be interesting to watch the impact of GST on the economy, government tax kitty, and consumer prices. India will finally join the club of 160+ countries that have implemented GST. Although the current multiple tax slabs are not as simple as a single tax rate mechanism followed in countries such as Singapore, which has a flat 7% GST, it’s still a big improvement from the current structure of having numerous indirect taxes such as excise, octroi, import duty, entertainment tax, and service tax.
We hope that in coming years the centre and states will be able to iron out their differences and include fuel, road taxes, and alcohol under the GST blanket. This will mean “One Nation, One Tax” in the true sense.
Author: Vaibhav Aggarwal