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GST Bill: State tax officials to protest on Monday over their limited rights

If you think that everything is going smooth with the passage of the Goods and Services Tax in the upcoming parliament session is concerned, think again. All India Confederation of Commercial Taxes Association (AICCTA) will be holding a mass protest against the central government on Monday at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, for 'depriving' the states of the power to enforce and collect taxes on goods and services. Passing of GST bill - the much publicised grand move of the ruling NDA to reform the country's indirect taxes system - faces the protest from the tax officials of various state governments. Rajnikanta Sharma, general secretary of AICCTA - a body of tax officials of the state commercial tax departments - tells Firstpost, "We agree that the GST is the best move to reform indirect taxes among those have been implemented till now. But it frustrates the very motto of co-operative federalism espoused by the central government, by curtailing the powers of the states to collect tax."

He said that the new tax regime aims to make the commercial taxes departments under the state governments' subordinate branches of the central government. "In the upcoming regime, the Centre is planning to confer rights to the states to enforce and collect tax up to a turnover of Rs 1.5 crore on goods but not on services. After the 1.5-crore mark, the new regime espouses the rule of equal jurisdiction between the state and the Centre," he explains. “Why can't the commercial taxes departments of various state governments have equal power on both goods and services up to the 1.5 crore mark? Since the new tax regime embraces both goods and services, the states should be given equal powers to enforce and collect tax on both,” he adds. Another tax official, on condition of anonymity, says that the Centre is planning to deprive the states of the right to impose tax on both goods and services on the pretext that the states do not have the experience of collecting service tax, as this is being done by the Centre all along. "But even the Centre does not have the experience of enforcing and collecting tax on goods, still it takes the equal rights as the state governments to do the same on both goods and services above the 1.5-crore turnover mark. How can this be justified?" he asks. Rajnikanta Sharma further says, "We are neither opposing the central government nor the new tax regime. We are fighting for the causes of our states.The states must continue to have the powers that they have now." Two of the important demands raised by the association is allowing the states to enforce and collect tax on both goods and services up to the 1.5-crore turnover mark and letting the states administer IGST (earlier known as CST) as it is doing now. The association has already started its agitational program in various states. The tax officers association of various states have already staged protests in separate programs in the respective states. On 18 and 19 October, a meeting of the GST council is likely to take place and AICCTA will be organising its protest a day ahead of this meeting. A nationwide mass casual leave program by the commercial tax officials will also be scheduled on that very day.

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