Decks have been cleared for a pan-India implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from July 1 with the Rajya Sabha passing the much-awaited four enabling bills on Thursday.
The Lok Sabha had passed these bills on March 29.
Touted as the biggest indirect tax reform since independence, GST would subsume central excise, service tax and other local levies. On agriculture products, he maintained that it will remain outside the purview of GST in zero rate. The GST proposes a lower 5%, two standard tax rates of 12 and 18%, and a peak rate of 28%.
Replying to the 8-hour-long debate, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also gave credit to the previous UPA government for the GST. He said, it is a matter of happiness that all political parties extended their support in the passage of the bills.
"Are we actually going to create an efficient tax structure, reduce the burden of compliance, ensuring that the final GST rate will not be too high?"
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Again depending on the current supply chain structure and related indirect taxes, a commoner could expect a 2% to 3% plus or minus impact on white goods like televisions, washing machines, stoves, etc.
"We can of course ask the Council to reconsider its suggestion".
One more piece of legislation, the State GST Bill, will have to be passed by the legislative assemblies of States and Union Territories with legislature. He said, all those items which are exempted as of now will continue to be exempted.
"Parliament can not be ignored", he said, suggesting that the GST should be audited by the comptroller and auditor general.
Ancilliary products also will remain exempted, he added.
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"If we are looking at one nation, one tax, than these issues should be looked into", he said.
Now food articles are not taxed and those will continue to be zero rated under the GST.
"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".
As regards Jammu and Kashmir, the Finance Minister said the law passed by Parliament will not apply to the state because of Article 370.
Mr. Jaitley said, out of nine set of rules which are to be made for implementation of GST, five set of rules have been finalised and four others have been approved tentatively.
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The balance 51 per cent equity is with non-government financial institutions - HDFC, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, NSE Strategic Investment Co and LIC Housing Finance Ltd.