Millennium Post

Govt to walk extra mile to see jewellers are not harassed: FM

As the jewellers’ strike against levy of excise duty entered fourth week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today offered to walk the extra mile to ensure that small traders were not harassed but made it plain that luxury items cannot go untaxed.

Gold and other jewellery will be part of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime which will subsume the 1 per cent proposed excise levy, as there cannot be a situation where essential items are taxed and luxury items like gold are left out, he said in an interaction with journalists at the PTI office here.

“A luxury item must pay its share of taxes. So on procedural harassment, if they have any suggestions, I am willing to accept for simplification so that there is no harrasment... I am willing to take an extra step. But indefinitely India can not have a situation where luxury items go untaxed,” Jaitley said.

Government’s decision to levy 1 per cent excise duty on jewellery had created sharp reactions from jewellers who have been on strike for 26 days. The jewellery industry have been demanding roll back of excise duty hike.

The government has set up a committee under former chief economic advisor Ashok Lahiri to look into the problems of jewellers and suggest ways to eliminate harassment.

“If there are any other procedural simplification suggested by the Ashok Lahiri committee, I will be too wiling to consider them.... But one fact which the whole of the society has to accept is that luxury items cannot go on being untaxed. When items and commodities which are used by average person are all being subjected to tax, a luxury item like gold can not go untaxed,” Jaitley said.

The Minister further said that committee on GST headed by CEA Arvind Subramanian was against exempting gold arguing that “if you keep gold out... tax on other products have to go up. Other products cannot subsidise gold”. “Their key concern that there must be no harassment, I completely agree with. The nature of their trade is also such that steps need to be taken to avoid harassment.

“Therefore one has to very carefully handle this. So that part of fear, their concern, I share that concern. That is why recently we have issued very strict guidelines. Only the primary manufacturers will be liable for excise, no job worker, no small trader etc. We have kept the threshold very high,” Jaitley said.  

The Finance Ministry has already clarified that the 1 per cent levy would be only for jewellers with Rs 12 crore turnover and not small traders.

It has also said that artisans and job workers are not covered by this duty and thus they are not required to take registration, pay duty, file returns and maintain any books of account. It said the application for excise registration as well as returns can be filed online and field officers will provide hassle-free registration within two working days.

There will be no post-registration physical verification of the jeweller’s premises and no requirement of declaring pre-Budget stocks.

Jewellers’ private records or their records for state VAT or for Bureau of Indian Standards (in the case of hallmarked jewellery) will be accepted for all central excise purposes, the ministry had said.

Jewellers not to withdraw strike
Traders body CAIT and All India Bullion Jewellers and Swarnkar Federation (AIBJSF) on Sunday said they will not withdraw their strike till the time government rolls back the proposal to impose 1 per cent excise duty on non-silver jewellery. The strike by a section of jewellers to protest against the proposal entered the 26th day. 

Releasing a white paper on the issue, representatives of Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) and IBJSF urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to intervene in the matter to resolve the issue. "We have been on strike for last 26 days and will continue to do so for indefinite period till the time government rolls back its decision," All India Bullion Jeweller & Swarnkar Federation President Praveen Goel told reporters here. 

He said that the worst affected with this proposal are daily wage artisans. CAIT secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said that the government should at least put its decision on abeyance till the issue get resolved. Khandelwal also said that the committee which was formed by the government on the issue should have equal participation from the traders. "Government should take traders into confidence and open the door for discussion on the matter. Traders are not running from paying taxes. The profit of traders are very low and one per cent levy is very high," he said. Refuting the allegation of black money generation in the jewellery trade, he said trader is not the source of black money. 

Although AIBJSF is continuing with the strike, three major associations - GJF, ABJA and GJEPC - called off the stir on March 19 after government's assurance that there would be no 'Inspector Raj'. The government has constituted a panel under former Chief Economic Advisor Ashok Lahri to look into the demands of jewellers.
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