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GST rates fixed for 1,211 items; soaps, toothpaste, hair oil could get cheaper

India moved closer towards a country-wide Goods and Services Tax (GST) on Thursday with the GST Council fixing tax rates on of 1211 items, most of which will likely become cheaper as the new rates will be lower than the current effective levies.

Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said in Srinagar that sugar, edible oil, normal tea and coffee (not instant tea or coffee) will attract a GST rate of 5 percent, down from the current effective rate of 4-6 percent.

Hair oil, toothpaste and soaps will be taxed at 18 percent under GST, significantly lower than the present effective rate of 28 percent.

Coal will be taxed at 5 percent under GST, compared to a current effective rate of 11.7 percent, raising prospects of lower power tariffs.

Cereals have been kept under the “exempt” category, signs that food grain prices could come down after GST kicks-in from July 1. Gur (jaggery) has also been kept under the “exempt” category.

READ: The illustrative guide to how transactions will take place after GST

Sources told Moneycontrol that GST rates have not been yet been finalised on six categories of products—bio-diesel, beedi and cigarettes, footwear, textiles, agricultural implements and gold.

Separately, within the "food" category a final decision on GST rates on branded cereals and packaged food including packaged fruit juices will likely be taken on Friday.

A decision on GST rates on services will likely be taken on Friday, the second and the last day of the council’s meeting in Srinagar.

Adhia said that 14 percent of the 1211 items will attract a GST rate of 5 percent, another 17 percent will be taxed at 12 percent, 19 percent of the items will be taxed at 28 percent, while 7 percent will be on the exempt list.

Over the last six weeks, an officers’ panel had been working towards the fitment or classification exercise – an exhaustive list specifying the tax rate of goods and services, which was presented at the Council meeting.

“The overall impact is non-inflationary. The tax burden hasn’t increased in any commodity,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.

“In many commodities, there is a reduction, particularly as tax on tax has gone. On some (goods) we have deliberately brought the tax rate down,” Jaitley said.

The fitment panel has been working on the principle to fix tax rates closest to the present incidence of taxation on good or services.

The final rates have been fixed in a way such that the impact on inflation as well as revenue to the government is near neutral.

The two-day GST Council meet began on Thursday in Srinagar, as ministers and officials from 29 states and Union Territories, along with Jaitley and senior finance ministry officials converged in the Jammu and Kashmir capital to decide and fix rates on a long list of goods and services.

GST, billed as India’s most ambitious reforms move, will stitch together a common national market, dismantle fiscal barriers among states and consolidate a patchwork of local and central duties into a single levy.

The Council had earlier agreed on a four broad slab structure - 5, 12, 18 and 28 percent - along with a cess on luxury and demerit goods such as tobacco, pan masala and aerated drinks.

The states would receive provisional compensation from Centre for loss of revenue due to abolition of taxes such as VAT (value added tax), octroi and implementation of GST. The compensation would be met through levy of a 'GST Compensation Cess' on luxury items and sin goods like tobacco, for the first five years.

The cess on luxury goods have been capped at 15 percent. While the effective cess on goods such as “luxury” cars will 12 percent, the Council has decided to fix a cap to give headspace for expansion in the future.

"Sin" goods such as tobacco (cigarettes) and pan masala will attract cess rates of 290 per cent and 135 percent respectively, although the impact on current effective consumer prices will be negligible.

Based on the recommendation of the fitment panel, the Council is also likely to examine the option of placing services under two tax slabs—12 and 18 percent.

The move will likely even out the overall price impact on consumers who now pay tax of 15 percent on all services.

The original plan was to have a single tax rate—18 percent—for services under GST that would have made most services costlier under the new system.

A rate of 12 percent is also under consideration, especially for those services that would be regular for the common man such as air travel services, restaurants and renting of hotels.

Most services, except those in the negative list of essential services such as healthcare and education, will come under GST.

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