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GST legislation enters the final lap

The end game for the goods and service tax (GST) is finally here.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is poised to introduce the last batch of GST legislations this week in Lok Sabha, probably as early as Monday.

Senior Union ministers disclosed that the government was keen to get the bills passed at the earliest, and that most of the political parties have agreed to give their support.

“We want the bills to be passed in the coming week. Since most political parties have already agreed to support the bills, we are not anticipating any trouble in the smooth passage of the bills,” one of the ministers said.

Goods and Services Tax: so far so good, but not good enough

This is the last legislative hurdle for this ambitious indirect tax reform, which the government aims to implement from 1 July 2017.

Separately, the GST Council—the representative body of the centre and the states—will meet on 31 March to finalize nine sets of rules.

The GST Council will then undertake the process of fitting various goods and services into various tax slabs, which is expected to take two months.

The bills, to be tabled as money bills, are expected to sail through Parliament; the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is in a minority, cannot reject a money bill.

The government will introduce four supporting draft laws—the central GST bill, the integrated GST bill, the Union territory GST bill and a bill to compensate states for revenue losses arising from the transition to GST.

It will also bring in amendments to the existing central excise and customs laws as well as other legislation wherein various cesses are levied.

GST aims to remove barriers across states and unify the country into a common market.

It will subsume all indirect taxes and many cesses, including excise, service tax, value added tax, entertainment tax, luxury tax and entry taxes.

The government has to bring in GST by 1 September as both the central as well as state governments will lose their powers to levy any kind of indirect taxes other than GST from 16 September 2017—a year after the constitution amendment bill for GST was notified.

“The government has a determined economic agenda, and it is a very revenue conscious government. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership would have thought and planned about the GST passage much before the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh because the government needs revenue for its agribusiness kalyan programmes (programmes for financially weaker sections),” said Jai Mrug, Mumbai-based political analyst.

The passage of the supporting legislation will also provide much-needed clarity for industry to prepare for the transition to GST. The finalization of the various laws and rules will help the industry restructure its business and supply chains to make them more tax efficient under GST.

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