New Delhi, October 1, 2017

Simplification only after revenue neutrality is achieved

Three months after the July 1 rollout of the Goods and Services Tax, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday promised to simplify the levy with fewer tax slabs once there was greater revenue buoyancy.

Noting that there was space and scope for improvement, he said, “Eventually, once we become revenue-neutral (we can afford) to think in terms of bigger reforms such as fewer slabs …But for that, we have to become revenue-neutral-plus.”

At the valedictory address at the National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics (NACIN), Jaitley said there was a need to reduce the compliance burden for small taxpayers.

His comments are significant, given that critics have pointed to multiple rates under GST as being far removed from the original objective of a single tax rate on both goods and services.

But with numerous exemptions and a four-tier rate structure, apart from a compensation cess and different rates for gold (3 per cent) and rough diamonds (0.25 per cent), the current GST model is very different.

Jaitley also underlined the need for the government to mop up revenue. “It is the lifeline of governments. It is the lifeline of all developmental activities,” he said, adding that people have a responsibility to pay taxes.

Jaitley also urged tax officials to ensure that taxpayers are not harassed.

“You don’t have to extort taxes out of those who are not liable to pay, but you are certainly liable to collect taxes from those who have to pay. Standards of fairness and compliance must be the highest,” he stressed.

With over Rs.90,000 crore as GST payments in each of the first two months of the rollout, the Centre had earlier indicated that collections were on target. While Rs.94,063 crore was collected as GST in July, Rs. 90,669 crore was received in August.

[The Hindu Business Line]