As the nation welcomes the new tax regime with the coming of Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Minister of Finance, Defence and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley did admit that the new tax regime will bring in some initial challenges for traders and the business community at large. He also stated that GST was a much-needed reform that is in the interest of the common man, traders, businesses, industry and the country.
Since its formation in September 2016, the GST Council has had 18 meetings. It was a mammoth task involving nearly 30,000 man hours of intensive work. More than 200 meetings of the officers of the Centre and the states took place in different parts of the country to expedite the implementation of the GST.
Though Jaitley accepted that all the systems were in place, however according to him “there is an element of uncertainty too since this is such a massive exercise involving new methodologies for filing returns and shift from paper to technology”.
Of late there have been protests from some traders who think that the GST brings in high tax slabs for them. Calling such incidents sporadic, Jaitley said, “There is no opposition from traders. In fact traders have welcomed it. Today more than 67 lakh people have already registered themselves. The traders, chambers and manufacturers of this country have welcomed GST and there are just sporadic protests.”
Terming GST as a major step that will set a new standard for the country, Jaitley underlined the importance of tax compliance. “India has to now see a new normal. A society where tax evasion is a rule and governments running on borrowed money is a practice, and if India has to evolve from a developing to a developed country, this normal has to change,” stated Jaitley.
When asked how he rates GST in the string of reforms that the country has seen over the years, Jaitley commented, “I will place it fairly high. If I look at the past, I would rate what happened in June-July of 1991 very high as it was a step about globally integrating the economy. During the 1996-97 period, the big step was to rationalise the rate of direct tax. If I look back at the last three years, there are four five areas I would rate fairly high. Certainly GST would be very high. I think the whole thrust of looking at a more formal and digital economy with demonetisation will also be rated high. Moreover, the process of globally integrating the economy with FDI reforms is also a significant one.”
(Jaitley was speaking at the Aaj Tak GST Conclave, which was held in New Delhi on June 30, 2017)