Why We Need GST? | srei
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Why We Need GST?

Let’s begin by elaborating on the important concept of – cascading effect of taxes. It is also, logically, referred to as “taxes on taxes”. It is simple to illustrate – say A sells goods to B after charging sales tax, and then B re-sells those goods to C after charging sales tax. While B was computing his sales tax liability, he also included the sales tax paid on previous purchase, which is how it becomes a tax on tax.

Understanding GST

This was the case with the sales tax few years ago. At that time, a VAT system was introduced whereby every next stage dealer used to get credit of the tax paid at earlier stage against his tax liability. This reduced an overall liability of many traders and also helped to reduce inflationary impact this had on the prices.

Similar concept came in the duty on manufacture – The Central Excise Duty – much before it came for sales tax. The CENVAT credit scheme (earlier known as MODVAT) was also a welcome move by trade and industry where credit of excise duty paid at the input stages was allowed to be set-off against the liability of excise on removal of goods. With effect from 2004, this system was extended to Service Tax also. Moreover, cross utilisation of credit between excise duty and service tax was also permitted. To a huge extent, the problem of cascading effect of taxes is resolved by these measures.

However, there are still problems with the system that have not been solved till date.

What are they?

  • The credit of Input VAT is available against Output VAT. In the same manner, the credit of input excise/service tax is available for set-off against output liability of excise/service tax. However, the credit of VAT is not available against excise and vice versa.
  • VAT is computed on a value which includes excise duty, and no CENVAT credit is allowed for it. This shows that there is a tax on tax!

Central and State Governments Tax

Excise duty and service tax are levied by the Central Government, while the VAT is levied by the State Government, which is one of the reasons why such a cross-utilisation of credits was not allowed. However, this does not constitute a valid reason that justifies the cascading effect of taxes.

For the people, it makes no difference if a tax is levied by the Centre or the State – a tax is a tax, and there is a tax on tax. The GST is introduced to combat this problem, among many others.

Present System of Indirect Taxes

Let us first understand the various indirect taxes that are presently being levied by the Central & State Governments.

Ref. Tax Levy By Nature (Levied on)- Can be set-off against Covered by GST
1 Central Ex ise Centre Manufacture 1,2 Yes
2 Service Tax Centre Providing Services 1,2 Yes
3 Customs Centre Import - No
4 CVD* under customs Centre Additional Import duty (compensating excise) 1,2 Yes
SAD* under customs Centre Additional Import duty (compensating Sales Tax) 1,2 Yes
6 CST Centre Inter-State Sales - Yes
7 VAT State Sales within a state 7 Yes

(*CVD – Countervailing Duty; SAD – Special Additional Duty)

  • The GST shall subsume all the above taxes, except the Basic Customs Duty that will continue to be charged even after the introduction of GST. Other indirect taxes, such as stamp duties etc shall also continue.
  • India shall adopt a Dual GST model, meaning that the GST would be administered both by the Central and the State Governments. This makes it the first tax of its kind in India!

Dual GST Model

Let’s begin by stating the dual GST model and the taxes levied on each kind of transaction. See these abbreviations before we understand them-

SGST – State GST, collected by the State Govt.
CGST – Central GST, collected by the Central Govt.
IGST – Integrated GST, collected by the Central Govt.

(The names may change in the actual law; our purpose is only to understand their nature)

Now look at the chart that follows:

Transaction New System Old System Comments
Sale within the state SGST and CGST VAT & Excise / ST* Under the new system, a transaction of sale within the state shall have two taxes, SGST - which goes to the state, and CGST which goes to the Centre.
Sale outside the state IGST CST & Excise / ST* Under the new system, a transaction of sale from one state to another shall have only type of tax, the IGST - which goes to the Centre.

It is worth mentioning here that the levy of Excise or Service Tax was not dependent on the levy of VAT/CST, as they were governed by different laws.

These are the taxes that shall be levied under the new system of GST. How this shall operate, and how can we have cross utilisation of credits can be seen in the discussion that follows

How GST Operates?

Case 1: Sale in one state, resale in the same state

In the example illustrated below, goods are moving from Mumbai to Pune. Since it is a sale within a state, CGST and SGST will be levied. The collection goes to the Central Government and the State Government as pointed out in the diagram. Then the goods are resold from Pune to Nagpur. This is again a sale within a state, so CGST and SGST will be levied. Sale price is increased so tax liability will also increase. In the case of resale, the credit of input CGST and input SGST (Rs. 8) is claimed as shown; and the remaining taxes go to the respective governments.

GST Case 1

Case 2: Sale in one state, resale in another state

In this case, goods are moving from Indore to Bhopal. Since it is a sale within a state, CGST and SGST will be levied. The collection goes to the Central Government and the State Government as pointed out in the diagram. Later the goods are resold from Bhopal to Lucknow (outside the state). Therefore, IGST will be levied. Whole IGST goes to the central government.

Against IGST, both the input taxes are taken as credit. But we see that SGST never went to the central government, still the credit is claimed. This is the crux of GST. Since this amounts to a loss to the Central Government, the state government compensates the central government by transferring the credit to the central government.

GST Case 2

Case 3: Sale outside the state, resale in that state

In this case, goods are moving from Delhi to Jaipur. Since it is an interstate sale, IGST will be levied. The collection goes to the Central Government. Later the goods are resold from Jaipur to Jodhpur (within the state). Therefore, CGST and SGST will be levied.

Against CGST and SGST, 50% of the IGST, which is Rs. 8 is taken as a credit. But we see that IGST never went to the state government, still the credit is claimed against SGST. Since this amounts to a loss to the State Government, the Central government compensates the State government by transferring the credit to the State government.

GST Case 3

Advantages of GST

Apart from full allowance of credit, there are several other advantages of introducing a GST in India:

  • Reduction in prices: Due to full and seamless credit, manufacturers or traders do not have to include taxes as a part of their cost of production, which is a very big reason to say that we can see a reduction in prices. However, if the government seeks to introduce GST with a higher rate, this might be lost.
  • Increase in Government Revenues: This might seem to be a little vague. However, even at the time of introduction of VAT, the public revenues actually went up instead of falling because many people resorted to paying taxes rather than evading the same. However, the government may wish to introduce GST at a Revenue Neutral Rate, in which case the revenues might not see a significant increase in the short run.
  • Less compliance and procedural cost: Instead of maintaining big records, returns and reporting under various different statutes, all assessees will find comfortable under GST as the compliance cost will be reduced. It should be noted that the assesses are, nevertheless, required to keep record of CGST, SGST and IGST separately.
  • Move towards a Unified GST: Internationally, the GST is always preferred in a unified form (that is, one single GST for the whole nation, instead of the dual GST format). Although India is adopting Dual GST looking into the federal structure, it is still a good move towards a Unified GST which is regarded as the best method of Indirect Taxes.

Points to Ponder

The GST is a very good type of tax. However, for the successful implementation of the same, we must be cautious about a few aspects. Following are some of the factors that must be kept in mind about GST:

  • Firstly, it is really required that all the states implement the GST together and that too at the same rates. Otherwise, it will be really cumbersome for businesses to comply with the provisions of the law. Further, GST will be very advantageous if the rates are same, because in that case taxes will not be a factor in investment location decisions, and people will be able to focus on profitability.
  • For smooth functioning, it is important that the GST clearly sets out the taxable event. Presently, the CENVAT credit rules, the Point of Taxation Rules are amended/ introduced for this purpose only. However, the rules should be more refined and free from ambiguity.
  • The GST is a destination based tax, not the origin one. In such circumstances, it should be clearly identifiable as to where the goods are going. This shall be difficult in case of services, because it is not easy to identify where a service is provided, thus this should be properly dealt with.
  • More awareness about GST and its advantages have to be made, and professionals like us really have to take the onus to assume this responsibility.

The blog post is authored by Mr. K.R. Muthuraman, Sr. VP – Treasury, Srei Infrastructure Finance Limited.