The goods and service tax (GST) collection numbers for of June are out, and the reading is a tad below the Rs 1 lakh crore rupee mark. It's the first time since February this year that the tax revenue has missed the Rs 1 lakh crore rupee milestone.
Monday also marks the second anniversary of the rollout of the GST. Two years ago, the new tax regime replaced almost all indirect taxes and since then, it has undergone several changes. Former finance minister Arun Jaitley, who was at the helm of the GST rollout, has called it "the monumental restructuring of one of the world's clumsiest indirect tax systems."
In his blog on Facebook, Jaitley called the tax "consumer and assessee friendly", and added that it has reduced the tax burden on consumers, while resulting in an improvement in tax collections.
Highlighting the achievements of the GST over the last two years, the former FM wrote that the assessee base has increased by 84 percent since the rollout, standing today at 1.2 crore.
Corporate India has welcomed the changes made by the GST Council, but recommend making further changes which include the rationalisation of tax slabs and simplifying returns by having a single registration window for service providers. The industry has also sought bringing electricity, oil and gas, real estate and alcohol into the ambit of GST.
Anurag Thakur, minister of state for finance, says the government’s top priority is to fix the problem of fake invoices.
Pratik Jain, partner at PwC India, tax expert Rohan Shah, and MS Mani, partner- GST at Deloitte India discuss what the two-year journey under the brand new tax regime has been like, and what can one expect as it evolves.
Pratik Jain, Partner at PwC India
The revenues collection, frankly, is a little disappointing from the government perspective because while it is only touching Rs 1 lakh crore, it is only 1.86 percent higher than the monthly average that we achieved in 2018-2019 and only 4.5 percent higher than the previous sort of corresponding period in the previous year. If you look at the target for 2019 it is very ambitious. More than 30 percent growth over what we achieved in 2018-2019 and therefore I think this will be one of the biggest concerns for the government at this point in time that how do they increase or make more beyond that Rs 1 lakh crore mark.
"Government is very clear that they want to go after the fake invoice racket. What can the government do to increase the tax collection? Of course they are looking at technology and electronic invoicing (e-invoicing). Government will also need to think about how do they incentivise the consumers to ask for an invoice because much of this tax evasion is happening at a B2C level and the government has not found an answer to that problem.
MS Mani, Partner- GST at Deloitte India
The government has data in terms of product wise, service wise, city wise, commissionerate wise, asseesee wise so they can slice and dice the data any which way they want. If the consumption pattern and the production pattern have some kind of a linkage in the supply chain this data can mean a lot in terms of the government ability to detect who is paying the right kind of tax and who is not paying the right kind of tax. Over a period of time if this data gets used in a sensible manner what can happen is people who pay taxes in time and who are the legitimate tax payers can at some point of time possibly be recognised.
"Now with the data at the disposal of the government in respect of GST itself also correlated with the data that they have to do with income tax, data that was collected during demonetisation, there can be a very large effort to actually track the people who are not paying the right kind of tax and possibly the collections that we need in future have to be focused on those people, not on people who are already paying taxes, who are already struggling with the compliance burden that is clearly not the segment to be targeted. It is the segment which is not paying the right kind of taxes which needs to be focused on.
Rohan Shah - Tax Expert
If we look at GST law universally you do not have a profusion of rates, so at one level for India a single rate would not work, I agree to that but do we need the profusion of rates we have and do we need as higher set of rates as we have in terms of the 28 percent and quite clear the answer is no. There is a possibility that there should be rate somewhere between around 15 percent which is between your 12 and 18 percent. There should also be a move really to have the minimum possible set of goods or service and the 28 percent. Then you have your 5 percent and there are some level of exemptions. Even in this formulation you have a four rate structure.
"So nobody is talking of a one rate structure but certainly a more benign rate which would be 15 percent, a 28 percent coverage which is at the very minimal. Rate and the taxation is correlated to credits. The general principle is every rupee of tax paid should result in credit. But we have all sort of constraints on credit and that again disrupts the system so as we look in the future I believe lesser rates, more benign rates and a more robust credit structure.