GST Council may consider slashing tax rates on common use goods

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 The all-powerful GST Council may consider lowering tax rates on a host of goods such as handmade furniture, plastic products and daily use items like shampoo, and simplify return filing rules in its meeting this week.

The Council, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, is scheduled to meet on November 10 to consider lowering of the 28 per cent GST rate on certain common use items, government officials said.

In further relief to small and medium enterprises, the panel is likely to rationalise tax rate in sectors where the total incidence of taxation has gone up because the goods were earlier either exempt from excise or was attracted lower VAT rates in the previous indirect tax regime.

The Council has been meeting every month since the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, which amalgamated over a dozen central and state taxes, was introduced on July 1.

The meetings have resulted in an array of changes to ease compliance burden on businesses as well as provided relief to consumers.

“A rationalisation of items in the 28 per cent tax bracket is expected. Most of the daily use items could be lowered to 18 per cent. Also tax rate on items like furniture, electric switches, plastic pipes could be relooked,” an official said.

All types of furniture attract a 28 per cent tax under GST. Wooden furniture is handmade by unorganised sector artisans and is mostly used by middle class families and there have been demands for lowering tax incidence on them.

Also, some items of plastic attract 18 per cent GST but goods like shower baths, sinks, wash basins, bidets, lavatory pans, seats and covers, flushing cisterns and similar sanitary ware of plastics attract 28 per cent levy.

There is a need for rationalisation of tax rates on these items, officials said. The plastic manufacturers in their representation to the revenue department had said that 80 per cent of the industry is in MSME category.

Besides, the GST rate on weighing machines, compressors may also be rationalised to 18 per cent from 28 per cent.

Officials said 90 per cent of the manufacturers are from small and medium industries who in the pre-GST era were exempt from excise duty on manufactured value of less than Rs 1.5 crore.

Hence, such machines only attracted VAT of 14.5 per cent. With regard to compressors, the total pre-GST incidence was 17.5 per cent (12.5 per cent excise duty and 5 per cent VAT), they said stressing on need to rationalise the tax incidence.

The GST Council, which comprises of representatives of all states, have already rationalised tax rates for over 100 items. The Council has last month approved an Approach Paper to be followed by the fitment committee while deciding on future rate revisions.

Under GST various goods and services have been bracketed in 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent. GST has subsumed over a dozen taxes, including excise, service tax and VAT, and transformed India into a single market.