20 May 2017 12:26 IST

Under GST, a 4-tier tax slab for services

Input tax credits for firms will ensure consumer costs won’t go up: Jaitley

A bulk of services will be taxed at the standard rate of 18 per cent under the four-tier rate structure for services that the GST Council finalised for taxing services. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stressed that this would not be inflationary, and that consumers would not have to pay more.

“Consumers will not be impacted as the service providers will get input tax credit. For any price hikes, the anti-profiteering clause will also come into effect,” he told reporters after the meeting. On Thursday, the council had come out with a four-tier rate structure for goods.

Currently, most services are taxed at 15 per cent and there have been concerns that an 18 per cent rate under GST would make them more expensive. Explaining the decision, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said there are multiple local and State levies such as entertainment and luxury taxes that would be subsumed.

“With the existing incidence of service tax and luxury tax, how can the GST rate for services go down? We need to have a revenue-neutral rate,” he said. It is unlikely that there will a cess on services.

With input tax credit now provided for both goods and services, he promised that the effective tax rate will be lower than the headline rate.

As per the rate structure finalised by the Council, education, healthcare and general railway travel will be exempt from GST. All other exemptions would also continue under GST.

Transport of goods by air, road and railways as well as railway travel in AC classes and cab aggregators would attract a 5 per cent tax. “Their main input is petroleum, which is out of GST, and so they cannot claim input tax credit. Hence, a lower tax rate for these services,” said Adhia.

Works contracts would be taxed at 12 per cent and business class travel on airlines at 12 per cent. Hotels and restaurants, depending on their services, will attract tax rates ranging from 5 per cent to 28 per cent. IT, telecom and financial services will attract 18 per cent GST.

While billing customers, mobile and insurance companies will be expected to rework their prices to ensure that the input tax credit is reflected, and the overall incidence on customers does not increase, Adhia said.

A peak rate of 28 per cent will be charged on five services, including five-star hotels and restaurants, cinema, gambling and horse race betting. States can also levy an additional entertainment tax on cinema that will be used for local bodies. A decision on the taxation of lottery is pending and it may be taxed at an even higher rate.

The next round of meetings of the GST Council is scheduled for June 3 in New Delhi when it will approve the levy on the six remaining goods: gold, agricultural implements, bidis and cigarettes, textiles and footwear.

It will also finalise the remaining two rules for GST and review the administrative preparedness of GSTN. Officials stressed that the new levy will come into effect from July 1.

Tax on e-commerce

The GST Council also decided to tax e-commerce sellers at 1 per cent. The Centre and the States would each levy a tax at the rate of 0.5 per cent at source on online sellers. The GST law has a provision to levy a tax at source of up to 2 per cent on e-commerce firms.

FinMin warns firms against ‘profiteering’

The Finance Ministry has warned India Inc not to raise prices in anticipation of the Goods and Services Tax, saying such a move could invoke the anti-profiteering clause even now. “The machinery for the anti-profiteering authority may not be ready at present, but any change in prices will be called into question,” Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said on Friday.

His comments came after the GST Council finalised the rates for goods and services, giving companies adequate time to work out their pricing policies.

Adhia said the Centre would soon begin work on setting up an anti-profiteering agency, as proposed in the GST law, so as to ensure that companies pass on the benefit of lower taxes to consumers. The Centre, he said, could even take suo motu action against firms engaging in profiteering.

Meanwhile, the government also said that despite the higher standard rate of 18 per cent, service providers would get input tax credit, which will lower the effective incidence of GST. However, analysts said consumers might end up bearing the brunt of the higher tax.

“The 18 per cent tax on most services would lead to a 20 per cent hike in the bills of most services including telecom,” said Priyajit Ghosh, Partner, Indirect Tax, KPMG in India. Calling for more sensitive treatment of telecom, Uday Pimprikar, Tax Partner, EY India, said, “Imposing 18 per cent tax on telecom is likely to increase the overall tax burden and therefore may have a negative impact on the consumer expense. It needs to be appreciated that telecom is a necessity and an extremely important infrastructure service.”

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