No review of GST rates, says CBEC chief Vanaja Sarna

Vanaja Sarna
Amid clamour in industry over tax rates decided by the GST Council, Vanaja Sarna, chairperson of the Central Board of Excise and Customs, ruled out a review, barring a few rare cases.

She also said the government was set for the July 1 roll-out of the GST and industry must gear up for the new regime. 

The government is flooded with representations from industries, including FMCG, automobiles, railways and solar power, to revise rates.

The GST Council in its last meeting decided rates for 1,211 items and 500 services. Around 60 per cent of the items will fall in the 12 per cent and 18 per cent tax slabs. “Industry should know that anything that was finalised in the council meeting will not be revisited now, barring six or seven remaining items. There will never be an end to demands for reviewing rates. Let the GST roll out and then these can be taken up,” Sarna told this newspaper.

She, however, added a few tax rates could be revised later. “Like all budgetary changes, a view can be taken on these later,” she pointed out.

Sarna said the council had to balance customer, trade, industry and revenue interests. She did not rule out a discussion on a revision of rates for certain items in the upcoming council meeting on June 3. “We cannot stop a council member from raising anything. If there is merit in a demand, it can be revisited,” she said. 

Automobile makers have pitched for a lower rate for hybrid cars, at the current incidence level of 30.3 per cent, against 43 per cent (28 per cent plus 15 per cent cess) decided by the council. Road Minister Nitin Gadkari has said he will take up the GST rate for hybrid cars with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The FMCG industry wants jams and pickles in the 12 per cent tax bracket as against the 18 per cent decided. The industry has argued that small and medium enterprises will be hit.

With only four weeks to go for the GST roll-out, Sarna is busy with transfers and posting of more than 150 officers to gear up for the restructured Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).

On industry’s demand for deferment of the GST till September 1,  the CBEC chief said only a part of industry was not ready for the July 1 roll-out.

“Everyone is aware that the government wants to bring it out on July 1, and the CBEC is ready for that,” she said.

On yet to be approved rules, Sarna said another meeting of the GST Council might be needed to clear guidelines for search, seizure and arrest, advance ruling, appeals and audit.

Seven rules have already been approved by the council while those for refund and transition provisions may be taken up in the upcoming meeting.

“The anti-profiteering provision will provide the government authority to check if prices should come down. We are also raising awareness among consumers about GST rates,” she said. 

On restructuring of the CBEC, Sarna said new formations would be in place by June 10.

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