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Lok Sabha approves GST Bill, paves way for uniform tax regime

The long-pending GST bill was approved by Lok Sabha on Wednesday after a walkout by Congress even as government vowed to compensate states for any revenue loss and assured that the new uniform indirect tax rate will be much less than 27 per cent recommended by an expert panel.

The Constitution Amendment Bill to implement the Goods and Services Tax (GST), originally mooted by the UPA, was passed by 352 votes against 37 after the government rejected the opposition demand of referring it to Standing Committee.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not present in the House at the time of voting.

Opposition members moved several amendments to the bill which were negated. Some members like Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress and B Mahtab did not move some of the amendments after assurances by the Finance Minister.

GST, which is proposed to be implemented from April 1, 2016, will subsume excise, service tax, state VAT, entry tax, octroi and other state levies.

Replying to the debate on the bill before Congress walked out, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the proposal to reform the indirect taxes has been pending for the last 12 years and his predecessor P Chidambaram had also mooted it during UPA rule.

Rejecting the Opposition demand for referring the Bill to the Standing Committee, he said the panel has already examined various provisions of the new legislation and several of its suggestions have been incorporated.

“A bill is not a dancing instrument that it will be jumping from Standing Committee to Standing Committee,” he said.

Commending the bill, he said this is a “very important moment” because the whole process of indirect taxation in India will change once the GST is implemented.

With regard to a recommendation of an expert panel for revenue-neutral GST rate of 27 percent, Jaitley said it is “too high” and will be “much diluted”.

He said GST would ensure seamless and uniform indirect tax regime besides lowering inflation and promoting growth in the long run as he sought to allay concerns of the states that they would be hurt by its implementation.

Seeking to address states’ concerns, the Finance Minister said they will be compensated by the Centre for five years.
“Our clear understanding with the states is, in a tapering manner the losses incurred by the states will be fully compensated for five years,” he said.

As per the GST structure, 100 per cent compensation would be provided for first three years, 75 percent for fourth year and 50 percent for the fifth year.

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