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GST edges closer to July 1 rollout

The historic Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime on Wednesday came a step closer to meet its July 1 target of rollout, with the Lok Sabha approving four supplementary legislations.

The Central GST Bill, 2017; The Integrated GST Bill, 2017; The GST (Compensation to States) Bill, 2017; and The Union Territory GST Bill, 2017 were passed after negation of a host of amendments moved by the opposition parties.

Replying to the seven-hour-long debate, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the GST, which will usher in a uniform indirect tax regime in the country, will make commodities "slightly cheaper".

He said the GST rates would depend upon whether the commodity is used by a rich person or a common man.

Jaitley said once the new regime is implemented, the harassment of businesses by different authorities will end and India will be one rate for one commodity throughout the country.

The GST Council has recommended a four-tier tax structure — 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent. On top of the highest slab, a cess will be imposed on luxury and demerit goods to compensate the states for revenue loss in the first five years of GST implementation.

The government on Wednesday faced a major embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha as five amendments moved by the opposition to the Finance Bill 2017 were adopted before the House approved the measure.

Trinamool Congress, which has 10 members, staged a walkout before the voting in the House where the ruling NDA is in a minority. In the 245-member House, the BJP has 56 members while the NDA jointly has 74 members.

Earlier, while replying to the debate, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley strongly defended the government's endeavour to make Aadhaar compulsory for access to various benefits, saying it was necessary to check frauds, including tax evasion.

While talking about Aadhaar, he admitted that it was a "great initiative" of the previous UPA government and said the NDA dispensation is expanding it.
Responding to repeated questions by the Congress members as to why Aadhaar was being made mandatory, he countered by asking why this technology should not be utilised since it was created for public benefit.

Congress leader P Chidambaram asked whether the government could give a guarantee that the Aadhaar details would not be leaked through hacking.
To this, the Finance Minister said while hacking could not be ruled out, the firewalls should be made stronger.
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