An area of worry relates to simplification of the refund procedure where the inverted duty structure prevails, points out V S Krishnan.
As the country stands on the cusp of a transformational tax reform, the worry now centres on how smoothly trade and industry can carry over existing input credit into the new GST regime.
Therefore, trade and industry is looking closely at transitional rules. This has important consequences on how quickly trade would like to draw down their inventories before the implementation date and also on decisions relating to the pricing pattern.
The transitional rules were recently approved by the GST Council in the meeting held on June 3.
The positive decision was that the input credit available to manufacturers and dealers without having to produce original duty paying documents has been raised from the proposed limit of 40 per cent of the value of the goods to 60 per cent for items bearing GST duty rates of 18 per cent or more.
This provision would benefit industries with a long delivery supply chain, extending to first-stage dealers and second-stage dealers and stockists. This measure would largely allay the fears of the business community.
Another area of worry relates to simplification of the refund procedure where the inverted duty structure prevails (GST rates on inputs and intermediaries are higher than on the final product).
While the existing provisions provide for grant of 90 per cent of the refund amount upfront within seven days in respect to exports. The same facility has not been extended to the inverted duty structure.
This needs to be done, as it will reduce the interest burden on industries created by the higher working capital requirements imposed on them due to imposition of IGST levy on inter-state supply.
The transitional rules approved in the third meeting also provide relief to high-value commodities like consumer durables, tractors and so on by allowing validation of duty claims through cross-reference to product details embossed on engines, chassis and other equipment.
All in all, the amendments approved to the transitional rules would help trade and industry to effect a smooth transition. Another interesting announcement was that the remaining period of this financial year post the July 1 implementation would be treated as period of transition.
This suggests that the government would take a sympathetic view on procedural violation if the intent is honourable and mistakes are unintended.
The announcement also ensures the government would be prepared to make calibrated changes as the situation unfolds, without a rigid view.
There are, finally, two institutional measures the government should take to ensure smooth transition:
A GST Secretariat must be created in all states, where senior state and central tax officials can come together in an institutional framework. this body can be registered under the Societies Act much like the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers; this will allow the body to have a dedicated secretariat and also provide a forum for trade and industry to raise non-policy implementation issues at the level of the states
Finally there is also a need to create a technical secretariat both at the Centre and state, which could provide instructions on assessment-related matters which would be binding on the field officers; there is already an enabling provision in the GST law passed which allows this to ensure uniformity of practice all over the country; this would ensure the “rule of law” and not the rule of thumb
Views expressed here are personal
Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters