Besides the clearly defined road map for GST roll out, the government may take steps to bridge the gap between the current tax rates vis-Ã -vis the probable rate in GST so that the negative effect of inflation on introduction of GST can be managed.
In the pursuit of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) introduction from 1 April 2017, it was anticipated that the model GST law will be taken up for approval during the winter session of the parliament. However, with complete washout of winter session of parliament due to demonetisation issue coupled with lack of consensus in GST Council on many contentious issues, it is now highly unlikely that the said target date will be met despite sincere efforts by the Hon’ble Finance Minister.
The GST Council has met several times in last few months, however, decision on vexed issues such as sharing of administrative powers between the centre and the state governments, higher compensation and the definition of territory of coastal states are still remaining inconclusive.
Though 1 April 2017 looks difficult, the Finance Minister has recently clarified that GST being a transaction tax, the same can be implemented from any date and not only from the beginning of the financial year. Also, it was stated that due to constitutional compulsion GST must be implemented by September 2017, else the right to levy the existing taxes will lapse.
Now, the focus has shifted to the Budget session commencing from 31 January 2017 where the GST model laws are likely to be placed for approval of both the Houses of Parliament. To meet these timelines, GST Council will need to thrash out the issues and agree on the final GST law in their meeting scheduled on 16 January 2017 followed by passage of the law both by centre and respective state governments.
Union Budget 2017-18 is expected to be unique in many aspects, one, this will be the first Budget immediately after demonetization and second it will be announced on 1 February instead of customary date of February 28. With uncertainty looming large on date of introduction of GST, the Finance Ministry has its task cut out in terms of estimating or one may say guesstimating the indirect tax revenue for the fiscal year 2017-18. Will the trend of 25 percent increase in the indirect tax collection during April-December 2016 play a role in such revenue estimate is anybody’s call.
With GST’s implementation date within sight (latest by September 2017), the government is expected to release the much awaited road map for implementation with clear timelines and activities including readiness of GST Network (GSTN).
Besides the clearly defined road map for GST roll out, the government may take steps to bridge the gap between the current tax rates vis-à-vis the probable rate in GST so that the negative effect of inflation on introduction of GST can be managed. The inverted duty structure is likely to be further rationalized. The government may also propose the transitional provisions in the existing indirect tax laws which will apply upon introduction of GST.
Though no big bang reforms in the customs and excise are expected in the wake of GST reform, however, one can look forward to some changes in the customs/excise duty rates to support make in India initiative. The service tax rate may get aligned to proposed standard rate under GST draft law. Further, to provide support to the exporters, government may announce certain beneficial scheme including clarifying the treatment of export schemes in GST regime. The Industry is eagerly awaiting the early release of the draft GST Rules and procedure so that they can initiate changes in their IT system for being GST ready.
Overall, projection of indirect tax revenue in an uncertain environment will be like shooting in the dark and one can look forward to innovative ways of the government to ensure that the budget is a near accurate estimate rather than being purely a guesstimate.
The author is partner and head, indirect tax at KPMG in India
All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of KPMG in India.