Lok Sabha passes four GST bills


New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed all four Bills related to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) after a day-long debate on them. During the debate the Congress alleged that the system was far from the government’s claim of “one nation, one tax”, referring to the GST’s four-slab structure. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, said the lack of different slabs in the taxing system would make it regressive because all goods cannot attract the same tax.

Jaitley said, “If we don’t have that, it’ll become a regressive tax. Some goods are essential for the poor”.  “A BMW and Hawai chappal [flip-flops] can’t have the same tax. What are the goods, who uses it, matters.” He added that this was a “revolutionary bill that would benefit all”.

The four slabs in the GST are 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. The government has set the maximum GST rate at 40% and introduced provisions for an anti-profiteering authority and arrests for evading taxes.

Senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily objected to the anti-profiteering clause in the Bill, calling it “far too draconian”. The Opposition had also expressed concerns about how the Bills were introduced in Parliament on Monday.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had tabled the Bill in the Lower House on Monday, hoping to have them passed with consensus in Parliament in the current Budget Session. The Bills that were tabled to include the Central Goods and Service Tax Bill, Union Territory GST Bill, Integrated GST Bill and the Compensation Law Bill.

Earlier, President Pranab Mukherjee had approved the Bills on September 8, 2016, after it was ratified by 16 states. The GST, which seeks to overhaul India’s complicated taxing system by replacing 17 different taxes with a single levy, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on August 3. The Union Cabinet had approved the Bills on March 20.

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