Determined to roll out the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by April 1, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed the Union Finance Ministry and all departments concerned to take all steps to adhere to the deadline.
The clear directives were given at a review meeting attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley among others and presided over by the Prime Minister, official sources said here on Thursday.
“In order to ensure that there is no slippage on date of implementation of GST from April 1, 2017, the Prime Minister reviewed the progress made on various steps needed for the roll-out of GST relating to preparation of Model GST laws and rules to be framed,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said on Thursday.
The review meeting also took stock of the preparation for establishment of IT infrastructure for both the Centre and the states, training of officers of central and state governments and outreach for awareness of trade and industry, the release said.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government is showing an urgency to roll out the unified tax regime in the country from the beginning of next fiscal and has proposed to advance both the winter session of parliament to the second week of November and the general budget session to January, 2017.
The move to advance the winter session of parliament is seen as an act to ensure that the government gets adequate time to get parliamentary nod for the supporting legislation.
Parliament will once again have to take up three relevant bills — one to permit the central government to levy a Central GST, another for an Integrated GST where more than one state is involved and then a model bill to facilitate states to levy their respective state GST.
On Monday, the government had approved the constitution of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council with Jaitley as its chair. The council would have powers to recommend the indirect tax rate and establish a disputes redressal mechanism, among other things.
Significantly, the push for a no-holds barred approach to ensure GST implementation by Modi and others in the government comes close on the heels of Finance Minister Jaitley’s acknowledgement that the deadline to roll out the GST was stiff, as there were a few hurdles ahead.
On September 8, Jaitey had said the Centre and the states were “running against time”, and there were issues, which the proposed GST Council would need to address.
“After the notification and constitution of the GST Council, there are obviously some pending issues, which the council will have to resolve. So we have September and October and parts of November to do that,” Jaitley had said.
Official sources said among the few hurdles the main issue to be addressed is: What will be the GST rate? This is being fiercely debated as base rates recommended by experts and stakeholders vary from around 15.5 per cent to as high as 26 per cent.
The GST Bill was earlier passed unanimously by the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session.
The GST is a single indirect tax that proposes to subsume most central and state taxes like Value Added Tax, service tax, central sales tax, excise duty, additional customs duty and special additional customs duty.