The State and Union Territories’ GST bills were approved along with necessary corrections to the three other GST Bills the Council had cleared previously —
1. Central GST
2. Integrated GST and
3. Compensation to States through a cess.
What the states have to do next?
This paves the way for State Assemblies and Parliament to ratify these laws quickly in order to meet the proposed July 1 rollout date for the system.
Most difficult task yet to be done
Though industry has indicated that it needs at least three months to prepare for the GST once it sees the fine print, one major action will still be pending on April 1. That action — the fitment of thousands of commodities and services into the five GST rate slabs (zero, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%) — could prove to be among the trickiest for the Council.
Why will this be problematic?
The rate fitment process, unlike legislative nuances, is more susceptible to lobbying not just from different sections of industry, but also States that would like a favourable tax treatment for products and services they excel in.
For instance, the GST Council has now approved a ceiling on the cess that could be imposed over and above the highest GST rate of 28% on pan masala, chewing tobacco and cigarettes, luxury cars and aerated drinks.
For all such ‘sin goods’, the cess ceiling has been set higher under the GST than the level necessary to maintain the present level of taxation. But beedis have been kept out of the cess net altogether in order to avoid friction with States that could delay the broader reform.