The President of India approved the Constitution Amendment Bill for Goods and Services Tax (GST) on 8 September 2016, following the bill's passage in the Indian parliament and its ratification by more than 50% of state legislatures. This law will replace all indirect taxes levied on goods and services by the central government and state government and implement GST by April 2017. The implementation of GST will have a far-reaching impact on almost all the aspects of the business operations in India. With more than 140 countries now adopting some form of GST, India has long been a stand-out exception.

GST is a value-added tax levied at all points in the supply chain, with credit allowed for any tax paid on input acquired for use in making the supply. It would apply to both goods and services in a comprehensive manner, with exemptions restricted to a minimum.

In keeping with the federal structure of India, it is proposed that the GST will be levied concurrently by the central government (CGST) and the state government (SGST). It is expected that the base and other essential design features would be common between CGST and SGSTs for individual states. The inter-state supplies within India would attract an integrated GST (IGST), which is the aggregate of CGST and the SGST of the destination state.

The following are the salient features of the proposed GST system:

  • The power to make laws in respect of supplies in the course of inter-state trade or commerce will remain with the central government. The states will have the right to levy GST on intrastate transactions, including on services.
  • The administration of GST will be the responsibility of the GST Council, which will be the apex policy-making body for GST. Members of GST Council will comprise central and state ministers in charge of the finance portfolio.
  • The threshold for levy of GST is a turnover of Rs. 1 million. For a taxpayer who conducts business in a northeastern state of India the threshold is Rs. 500,000.
  • The central government will levy IGST on inter-state supply of goods and services. Import of goods will be subject to basic customs duty and IGST.
  • GST is defined as any tax on supply of goods and services (other than on alcohol for human consumption).
  • Central taxes such as central excise duty, additional excise duty, service tax, additional custom duty and special additional duty, as well as state-level taxes such as VAT or sales tax, central sales tax, entertainment tax, entry tax, purchase tax, luxury tax and octroi will be subsumed in GST.
  • A provision will be made for removing imposition of entry tax/ octroi across India.
  • Entertainment tax, imposed by states on movies, theatre, etc., will be subsumed in GST, but taxes on entertainment at panchayat, municipality or district level will continue.
  • Stamp duties, typically imposed on legal agreements by states, will continue to be levied.
  • The key benefits associated with GST are:
  • Offers a wider tax base, necessary for lowering tax rates and eliminating classification disputes
  • Eliminates the multiplicity of taxes and their cascading effects
  • Rationalizes the tax structure and simplifies compliance procedures
  • Automates compliance procedures to reduce errors and increase efficiency

GST would be levied on the basis of the destination principle. Exports would be zero-rated, and imports would attract tax in the same manner as domestic goods and services. In addition to the IGST in respect of supply of goods, an additional tax of up to 1% has been proposed to be levied by the central government. The revenue from this tax is to be assigned to the origin states. This tax is proposed to be levied for the first two years or a longer period, as recommended by the GST Council.

With GST, it is anticipated that the tax base will be comprehensive, as virtually all goods and services will be taxable, with minimum exemptions. GST would bring in a modern tax system to ensure efficient and effective tax administration. It will bring in greater transparency and strengthen monitoring, thus making tax evasion difficult. While the process of implementation of GST unfolds in the next few months, it is important for industry to understand the impact and opportunities offered by this reform. GST will affect all industries, irrespective of the sector. It will impact the entire value chain of operations, namely procurement, manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, sales and pricing.