Plugging tax evasion and consumer welfare took center stage in the first meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday.
The Council, during the half-day meeting, imposed stiff penalties on companies not passing on rate cut benefits to consumers, besides giving a two-year extension to the National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA), whose term would have expired in November.
However, experts said the council should come up with a methodology of calculating the profiteered amount. Without this, there is arbitrariness.
To plug tax evasion, measures like using Aadhaar for registration, voluntary electronic invoicing and mandatory electronic ticketing for movie theatres were approved.
“The decision to use Aadhaar for registration is a significant step and could lead to similar linkages with income tax,” said Pratik Jain, partner, PwC India.
As for the reduction in rates on electric vehicles from 12 percent to 5 percent and for chargers from 18 percent to 12 percent, the matter was referred to the fitment committee. “The view was that protocol was not followed as the matter was not discussed by the fitment committee,” said a government official.
The contentious issue of a uniform GST rate on lotteries has been referred to the attorney general (AG) of India.
Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac in his speech in the Council threatened to press for voting in case the matter was pushed forward.
“So far all decisions in the Council have been taken by consensus. I hope this tradition is maintained. In case the agenda is pushed forward, I will be failing in my duty if I don’t demand a division,” Isaac said.
Sitharaman said the issue of lotteries had been referred to the AG in the context of the ruling by the Calcutta High Court and Article 304 of the Constitution.
The HC had rejected a plea that the council cannot impose GST on lotteries. Article 304 allows a state to impose the same tax rate on imported goods and goods produced in the state. Punjab raised the matter related to Article 304.
“The issue relates to consumption. If the consumers of both the lotteries, private and state, are the same, then how can there be two rates,” asked a government official.
Regarding the decision on anti-profiteering, at present Rs 25,000 is imposed as penalty on a company that has profiteered the amount if the amount is not deposited.
Now, the company has to deposit 10 per cent of the profiteered amount if the money is not deposited within 30 days of the order.
This is to ensure that rate cuts are passed on to consumers, said Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey.
At the meeting on Friday, e-invoicing got in-principle approval. The Council has re-proposed the system. The GST Council was working on various models for electronic invoicing.
Pandey said e-invoices could be generated on the portal and that invoice could itself act like an e-way bill.
“That is the system which we will work on.
The GST Council has given in-principle approval for electronic invoicing system,” Pandey said.
It also approved e-ticketing for multi-screen cinema halls mandatory. This will be convenient for consumers and will ensure that the state government and Centre get proper revenues.
Even as GST collection crossed Rs 1 trillion for a third straight month in May, revenue collection is a challenge.
The NAA had earlier told the Council about 354 cases were under investigation.