Single GST rate in the process, cutting tax on cement a priority: Jaitley

India is working towards a single national sales tax rate which could be a mid-point between 12 and 18 per cent, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday, in an effort to simplify the tax structure.

The government set the range for the Goods and Service Tax from 28 per cent to 5 per cent on most items when the signature reform was introduced last year.

"Multiple slabs were fixed transiently in order to ensure the tax of no commodity goes up radically. This contained the inflation impact," Jaitley wrote in his blog.

"A future road map could well be to work towards a single standard rate instead of two standard rates of 12 per cent and 18 per cent. It could be a rate at some mid-point between the two." He also said the country should look towards having slabs of zero, five per cent and a standard rate for luxury and sin goods (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc.).

Stating that only cement and auto parts are items of common use which remain in 28 per cent slab, Jaitley said the next priority will be to transfer cement into a lower slab.

All other building materials have already been transferred from 28 per cent to 18 per cent and 12 per cent. The sun is setting on the 28 per cent slab, he added.

Jaitley said of the 1,216 commodities which are used, broadly 183 are taxed at zero rate, 308 at 5 per cent, 178 at 12 per cent and 517 at 18 per cent.

The 28 per cent slab is now a dying slab, he said. Currently, 28 items, including luxury and sin goods, auto parts, dishwashers, AC and cement remain in the highest slab of 28 per cent.

With the goods and services tax (GST) transformation completed, we are close to completing the first set of rates of rationalisation i.e. phasing out the 28 per cent slab except in luxury and sin goods, he said.

The GST Council in its last meeting on Saturday cut rates on 23 items, thereby trimming the 28 per cent slab.

Jaitley said the standard rate pre-GST rollout was 31 per cent on a large number of commodities.

The assessees had only two options either to pay a high rate of tax or evade it, he said, adding tax evasion was prevalent to a large extent. India comprised of multiple markets.

Those who oppressed India with a 31 per cent indirect tax and consistently belittled the GST must seriously introspect. Irresponsible politics and irresponsible economics is only a race to the bottom, Jaitley added.

Read Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's full blog below:


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