GST to expand tax base, bring down weighted average tax rate: Arun Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley paying floral tributes at the memorial of former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa in Chennai on Sunday. (Photo: PTI)
The expanded tax base following the Goods and Services Tax (GST) registration along with the removal of double taxation and other benefits under the new tax reform would help the country in terms of having more resources, said the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday. 

Speaking at the GST Conclave in Chennai, Jaitley said that the weighted average of tax rate would come down under the new regime.

Addressing the event organised by various industry associations and institutions in Tamil Nadu's capital city, he said that the total number of GST registrations stood at around 80 lakh.

"Around 72 lakh (7.2 million) existing taxpayers were migrated to GST, even as there were multiple registrations. Already around 12 lakh (1.2 million) fresh registrations have come in. As this number is going to increase, the tax base is likely to expand horizontally," he said. 

Besides, several businesses would benefit from an early tax payment as inputs will contribute in adjusting costs at a subsequent stage, said the Finance Minister. 

For instance, in the automobile segment, while the tax rate was not changed under GST, prices started falling radically after the roll-out of the new regime.

"You will have to file a return but you may not have to pay an additional tax," he said. 

Speaking of the objections raised against GST across the country, he said that people complaining over the issue were worried they might come under the radar of the income tax department.

"Almost 99 per cent of the personal income tax returns are being received online, while the remaining one per cent is under scrutiny. We want that kind of a system for indirect taxes as well and therefore, we will create a system where the honest man can expand, do business without any worry or fear," he said.

"We have today reached a stage of history, where there is a great amount of popular support behind the reforms because people themselves have become restless. They are not willing to be satisfied with a situation where India does not reach up to its real potential. Therefore when the Parliament was disrupted and even when there was some time gap when GST was not allowed to be passed, the pressure of public opinion and media opinion was on those who were blocking it. And even with the governments, there is always a pressure to continue to act and act correctly, because the popular opinion in this country is undergoing this transformational change. It is the people who have compelled this reform," he said.

He added that while the previous government was not willing to assure the states on any compensation, the present government has assured compensation and a revenue growth of 14 per cent, leading to a consensus among states.

Earlier, Jaitley, along with Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, and others met various industry leaders in the state capital and discussed various aspects of the GST implementation.

Industry players, including Apollo Hospitals and Hyundai, among others voiced their concerns over GST.  Among the issues raised was the issue of different tax rates for various inputs in the same industry. Hyundai, on its part, flagged off its concerns over the higher tax rate for hybrid cars, besides alluding to the 28 per cent tax levy on certain services, while some auto components would attract 28 per cent tax under GST. 

Mallika Srinivasan, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited (TAFE) said all GST-related issues were settling down and that normalcy is likely to return in some time.

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