The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council will meet on December 22 amid heightened expectations that the panel will cut rates on several items, although some states want the move’s impact on revenues to be fleshed out in greater detail before levies are lowered.
A discussion on the revenue position of the Centre and states, easing refund-related rules for exporters, is also likely to be on the agenda.
The Council, headed by finance minister Arun Jaitey is the highest decision making body of the new indirect tax system that came into effect from July 1, 2017.
It is also expected to take up the issue of transferring ownership of the IT backbone GST Network in a government owned company, a proposal that was approved by the Cabinet in September, sources said.
In addition, there could be discussions on reducing cess on plug-in hybrid cars, which currently falls in the 28 percent tax slab. However, the overall tax incidence for the green vehicle is 43 percent right now.
Also read: Exclusive | Centre may soon cut tax on hybrid cars to 35 percent
It is learnt that the road ministry has proposed bringing down the tax liability to 35 percent.
Rate cuts have always been a contentious issue as the Centre and states have to come to a consensus. In that light, the meeting assumes all the more significance, coming as it does after the recent elections in five states that saw the Congress wresting power in all the three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states.
Days ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government wants to ensure that ‘99 percent things’ attract GST at 18 percent or lower rate.
“Today, the GST system has been established to a large extent and we are working towards a position where 99 per cent things will attract the sub-18 percent GST slab,” Modi said, while also hinting that the highest tax slab will be restricted to luxury and sin goods.
Also read: Working to bring 99% things in sub-18% GST slab: PM Narendra Modi
A range of goods from air conditioners to dishwashers, from television sets to digital cameras could become cheaper, if the Council expected to slashes rates to 18 percent on all products in the 28 percent slab, except demerit goods, cement and automobiles.
This could effectively set 18 percent as the highest GST tax slab, except only two broad categories of goods and services.
Over 1,200 goods and services fall into four broad tax slabs- 5, 12, 18 and 28 percent. Currently, there are close to 40 goods and services in the 28 percent slab, which comprises demerit and luxury goods, among other items.
The move comes barely four months ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections in April-May, 2019. The cut in rates, however, could affect GST revenues, given that the collections are still short of the budgeted target.
The last major round of rate cut happened in July when the Council decided to cut tax on 80 items. The government, then, had to forego revenue worth of Rs 10,000 crore-Rs 11,000 crore annually.