The return of four Bills on the Goods and Services Tax to the Lok Sabha by the Rajya Sabha on Thursday April 06,2017 without recommending any amendments brought the idea of “one country-one tax” closer to reality.
The Bills will now be sent for Presidential assent.
Replying to a debate, termed by Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien as ‘super’, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said petroleum products could be included in the GST ambit if there is a consensus on it in the GST Council. On agriculture products, he maintained that it will remain outside the purview of GST in zero rate.
The Congress withdrew all the amendments it had moved against the Bill. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said his amendments, particularly the one on the role of GST Council, will not be pushed as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh advised him not to do so. Ramesh said Singh wanted the consensus in the GST Council to be respected and that the House should not be seen as standing against it.
Earlier, speaking on the Bills -
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said he had serious concerns about the “whole concept of ‘one nation, one tax’; ‘one nation, one grid’.” “If the GST Council takes a decision, if we think in our wisdom that that is something that is affecting the powers of the States or the rights of the States according to our Constitution, it has to come for Parliamentary approval. And that is something which is a very serious lacuna in this Bill, which has to be corrected,” he said.
CPI leader D Raja said increasing the slabs of indirect taxes will put a burden on common people. “How are you going to allow the Governments to continue with welfare schemes, social security schemes for the people if you move towards this Common Tax System?” he asked.
Congress leader and former minister Kapil Sibal urged the Centre to reduce the slab of the GST.
“What we have got today is not a one-market one-rate GST, but we have four market rates, a five per cent rate, a 12 per cent rate, an 18 per cent rate and a 25 per cent rate.
“But, even worse than that is the fact that both in the Central GST and the State GST, the tax rate can be up to a maximum of 20 per cent, which means, theoretically speaking, for any good or service, you can have a maximum rate of 40 per cent.
“And, on top of that, you can have a cess of a maximum of 15 per cent. So, we are talking about a 55 per cent tax rate in respect of a particular commodity or service,” he said.