GST: Moving ahead
The 31st meeting of GST yielded relief for the commoner as the government slashed the tax rates on as many as 23 items. Cheaper movie tickets, televisions, power banks, video games, et al surely benefits the layman. Some items saw a reduction from 28 per cent to 18 per cent, some to 5 per cent, as frozen and preserved vegetables were exempted from the levy. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said, "The GST rate reduction will have an overall impact on revenue of Rs 5,500 crore." The Union government's move can be perceived in two styles. The Commoner stance might grin at the reduced rates but still argue over the impeded move as it took thirty-one meetings to make GST so user-friendly, if not more. While that may be treated as expected pandemonium by the public, the opposition's criticism over a seemingly positive move marks the opposition stance. If it benefits the people, there must not be any reason for the opposition to be perturbed — considering how they have always placed the government under scrutiny vis-à-vis public welfare. Supporting this argument is the opposition's stand on how Centre had implemented a flawed GST that caused uncomparable inconvenience to small traders and common people alike. The double standard cannot be left unnoticed. Yet, drama encircled on Saturday when the GST council saw the opposition resist the rate reduction on some items. Rahul Gandhi had urged for a simplified GST in a campaign in last Gujarat Assembly polls, citing the GST as 'Gabbar Singh Tax'. It makes absolutely no sense to see him now oppose what he initially desired. Moreover, criticism is offered at every turn and should be treated as a necessary evil. In that sense, obsequiously countering government's approach by the opposition must be taken in a common notion. After all, lowering of tax rates will increase the consumption of such items which in turn will turn the wheel of the economy faster than it currently is. Unclogging the economy to let the consumer exercise purchase making the market vibrant. Now that is a constructive perspective to it — one that supersedes both the commoner and the opposition stance. After all, it is not likely that a child scores remarkably high marks and the parent just appraises. There is always a "Try to do better next time" feedback that comes nevertheless. Further, lower taxes facilitate overall economic movement which is a collective interest and certainly a greater good arising from this. Even then, the lowering of taxes has been famed as a hurt BJP trying to please the public after losing out on the three Hindi heartland states. And, that, validates the 'necessary evil' presence of criticism, despite a positive outcome.
Moving beyond the commotion and the criticism that the GST council's decisions sparked, the government's next step is to focus on GST returns and forms regarding the same. The Goods and Services Tax Council further extended the due date for filing annual returns by three months as it looks to provide a reasonable time for the industry to collate the information required to be disclosed in the forms. Adding to that is the amendments that are scheduled to be done in the annual and audit returns. Not just this, the GST Council also approved the creation of a Centralised Appellate Authority for Advance Ruling to deal with cases of conflicting decisions by two or more State Appellate Advance Ruling Authorities on same issues. Clearing the air, a set of reforms that will simplify GST and increase its viability are set to be directed by the government. Scrutinising this aspect would make more sense since this is something that concerns the overall functioning of GST while placing norms as per which the entire audience will file a return. Improving the GST framework is necessary to augment the efficiency of the growing economy. From the future and economic perspective, the government's decision regarding both GST return filing forms and lowering of tax rates is a dual plus for the public. The GST council said that the new return filing system shall be introduced on a trial basis from April 1, 2019. Tried and tested system is one which will benefit the economy despite shortcomings. It is the one where the criticism will be expected in order to improve the viability of the framework. With a bunch of changes scheduled to be done, the council said that the new changes will be notified on February 2, 2019. The opposition and the commoners will again be found with their respective stances for the new changes, however, the constructive criticism, efficient framework, and a vigorously growing economy are the things that will be significant to the future of GST and the nation's economy!