The government on Tuesday rejected Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's allegations of GST rates being "insensitive" to the disabled, saying assistive devices for the physically-challenged will be charged at a concessional 5 per cent.
From Braille writers and Braille paper to wheelchairs, talking books, assistive listening devices and implants for the severely physically-challenged will attract a Goods and Services Tax of 5 per cent.
But inputs and raw material for manufacturing of these assistive devices or equipment attract 18 per cent GST. Since the final consumer tax is lower than the tax on inputs, a domestic manufacturer can claim refund, an official statement said.
Explaining the rationale, it said if these devices or equipment were exempted from GST, imports would continue to be at zero per cent duty. This would mean that domestically manufactured devices and equipment would bear the burden of input taxes, increasing their cost and becoming uncompetitive to imports.
‘In fact, the 5 per cent concessional GST rate on such devices and equipment will result in a win-win situation for both the users of such devices, the disabled persons, as well as the domestic manufacturers of such goods. It is for this reason that the Council has kept these items in 5 per cent rate slab,’ the statement said.
On Monday, Gandhi had accused the Modi government of being "insensitive" by imposing a "disability tax" of 5-18 per cent on wheelchairs and Braille typewriters, and demanded its full rollback.
"GST on disability aids like wheelchairs and Braille typewriters once again shows this government's complete insensitivity towards our most vulnerable. Congress party demands a full rollback of this 'disability tax' that will put millions of our disabled people through further hardship," he had said on Twitter.
The government statement went on to list the items that would draw the concessional rates -- handwriting equipment like Braille frames, slates, writing guides, script writing guides, styli and Braille erasers.
External catheters, special jelly cushions to prevent bed sores, stair lift, urine collection bags and instruments and implants for severely physically challenged patients and joint replacement, spinal instruments and implants including bone cement are taxed at the lowest slab.
Specially-adapted clocks and watches, orthopaedic appliances, electronic measuring equipment such as callipers, micrometers, comparators, gauges, rulers and yardsticks are also taxed in the lowest range.
Also, tangible appliances including articles, instruments, apparatus, specially designed for use by the blind, assistive listening devices, audiometers, technical aids for education, rehabilitation, vocational training and employment of the blind such as Braille typewriters, Braille watches, teaching and learning aids, games and other instruments are taxed at 5 per cent.