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Will consumers benefit from lower tax under GST? Jaitley thinks so

April 28, 2017 16:11 IST

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday promised to not spring any surprises in fixing tax rates under the new GST regime, saying they will not be "significantly different" from the current levels.

Image: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addresses the CII’s annual meeting in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo.

He, however, said companies should pass on to consumers the benefit of reduction in taxes under GST which will eliminate the current compounding effect of different central and state levies.

The GST Council, headed by Jaitley and comprising representatives of all the states, is scheduled to meet in Srinagar on May 18-19 to finalise tax rates on different goods and services after unifying at least 10 indirect taxes into the Goods and Services Tax.

Speaking at the CII's annual meeting, he said rules and regulations governing GST have all been framed.

"We are now in final stages of fixing tariffs for different commodities.

"The formula under which it is being done has also been explained and therefore nobody is going to be taken by surprise, it's not going to be very significantly different (from the present)," he said.

The GST Council has finalised four rate categories of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent after unifying levies like central excise, service tax and VAT.

Fitment will be done by adding the total incidence of current taxation (central plus state levies) and then putting the good or service in the tax bracket closest to it.

Jaitley said the GST Council has so far had 13 meetings and has never had to resort to voting to decide on any issue.

"And therefore all states representing different political complexions, have all agreed (on the GST structure)," he said.

The finance minister said the council is of the opinion that any benefit accruing from lower tax rates under GST should be passed on to consumers.

"Profit is not a bad word...     but unfair enrichment is. And therefore the benefit of reduction in taxation is a benefit that consumers are entitled to. And that's not a principle that can be seriously contested," he said.

The GST laws approved by Parliament have incorporated an anti-profiteering provision to ensure that the reduction of tax incidence is passed on to the consumers.

Also, India is in the advanced stages of formulating a policy to encourage domestic defence manufacturing and cut import of combat planes, ships and submarines, Jaitley said.

Addressing the annual meeting of CII, Jaitley, who holds additional charge of the defence ministry, said the focus would be on technological tie-ups to help India become a "manufacturing economy".

"India is the world's largest arms importer, spending some 1.8 per cent of its GDP on defence. It imports about 70 per cent of defence equipment, a proposition which the government wants to change.

"We are in the advanced stages of formulating a policy  where we can ensure that instead of just being buyers... on the strength of technological and other tie-ups, India also becomes a manufacturing economy," he said.

He, however, did not elaborate on the policy in works and whether it will include tax incentives and state support.

"The response that we have from domestic and international industry has been quite encouraging itself," he added.

With its growing global clout, India -- which has topped the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's list of largest defence importers for the last seven years -- is looking at self-reliance in aerospace and defence industry.

The government has pledged to spend USD 250 billion by 2025 on weapons and military equipment.

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