Since August 2016, when the 122nd Amendment (GST Constitutional Bill) was passed by the Rajya Sabha, India has been preparing to change the way it pays taxes. The new law, which is billed as independent India’s biggest reform initiative, is expected to improve compliance rates, increase government revenue and create a common national market by consolidating a web of local and central taxes into a single levy.
However, while the much-awaited GST regime finds itself one step closer to reality (the proposed date for GST implementation is July 1, 2017), the speculations and complex terminology around this intricate tax reform have left citizens worried about what it means for their pockets.
So if you have been wondering about how GST will affect your everyday life, here is a quick explanation about how this tax legislation will impact the prices of goods and services.
In a nutshell, GST appears to be a mixed bag with certain necessities getting cheaper, while the others are likely to disturb household budgets by getting more expensive. Also, the GST rates will depend on whether the commodity is used by a rich person or a common man, with the proposed rates being: 5%,12%, 18%, 28% (+luxury cess).
Note: There won’t be any tax (0% tax) on almost 50 % of items in the Consumer Price Index basket, including food grains, milk, vegetables and essential medicines.
|Slabs||New GST Rates||Current Rates||Products|
|1||5%||Upto 9%||Edible oil, tea, coffee, spices|
|2||12%||9%-15%||Computers, Processed Food|
|3||18%||15%-21%||Soaps, Shampoos, Hair oil, Shaving Creams etc.
Services like dining in restaurants, booking air/railways tickets, DTH and mobile services
|4||28%||21%||Luxury Goods (Additional cess of upto 15 % may be put on luxury cars, tobacco, aerated drinks)|
Things that may become cheaper:
- Fans, air coolers, lighting water heaters, LED TVs, mobile phones and other electronic items
- FMCG goods such as shampoos, over-the-counter drugs, processed foods, chocolates etc
- Pharma products
- Readymade clothes, including branded apparel
- Movie tickets (due to reduction in entertainment tax)
- Two-wheelers, entry-level cars and SUVs
- Cement, paint and other construction material
- Solar panels, Point of Sale (PoS) machines and fingerprint scanners
Reason: For manufactured consumer goods, the current tax regime means the consumer pays approximately 25%-26% more than the cost of production due to VAT (value added tax) and excise duty. So with the GST rate expected to be 18% for most goods, they are expected to become cheaper.
Things that may become costlier:
- Hotel and restaurant bills
- Mobile bills and internet packs
- Jewellery and high-end accessories
- Rail transportation, air travel and rent-a-cab services
- DTH, cable TV and courier services
- Luxury cars
- Aerated drinks
- Insurance Premiums
- Online Shopping (however, this is expected to be balanced by lower costs of logistics and smoother inter-state transport because of a uniform tax rate)
Reason: The effective service tax rate at present is 15% and it applies to almost all services (except essential ones such as ambulance services, cultural activities, sports events and certain pilgrimages). Under GST, this rate will increase to 18% making services by and large more expensive.
There are scores of services and thousands of goods that need to be listed in each of the proposed tax slabs and doing this, keeping in mind the interests of the state governments, the Union government and the consumers, will require special efforts. This is why the GST Council (consisting of state finance ministers and with the Union finance minister as the chairperson) will be meeting in April to thrash out the tax rates for upto 5,000 commodities and services that will be covered under the tax legislation.