Rajya Sabha passes Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill

Rajya Sabha passes Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill

In a significant development, the Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill, 2014 today evening unanimously. It is being reported that the Bill got 203 Ayes against NIL Noes. The Lok Sabha had already passed the Bill in May, 2015.

GST is a single tax on the supply of goods and services, right from the manufacturer to the consumer. Credits of input taxes paid at each stage will be available in the subsequent stage of value addition, which makes GST essentially a tax only on value addition at each stage. The final consumer will thus bear only the GST charged by the last dealer in the supply chain, with set-off benefits at all the previous stages. Read more about GST here.

Moving the Bill in Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “the whole concept of the GST Council is, Indian federalism at play in the best possible mode. Two-third of the voting power, in the GST Council, would belong to the States, and one third of the voting power, in the GST Council, would belong to the Centre. The votes required to settle a particular issue are three-fourths and therefore, necessarily, the GST Council has to work, particularly, under a consensus and, therefore, the Centre and the States will have to work together. The Centre will have a veto on the States; the States will have a veto on the Centre. Therefore, this would be federalism at play, under which the GST Council itself, would then be able to take its decisions. Sir, the whole object is that after this Constitution Amendment is approved and ratified by the States, the Council would come into existence.”

The Finance Minister added that, this is one of the most significant tax reforms in India in recent history and this reform has been debated within the political and economic system of India for the last almost over 15 years.

On behalf of opposition, Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said: “I want an assurance from the Finance Minister. This is far too important legislation which will last for the next 100 years. Not to hide behind any technical arguments, I want an assurance from the Leader of the House, the hon. Finance Minister, my good friend and fellow lawyer that when that Bill is brought, it will be brought as a Financial Bill and not as a Money Bill. Therefore, both the Houses will debate on both. Too many Bills have swept through the cracks as Money Bill. It has been challenged in the Supreme Court by one of our distinguished colleagues here and let us see what the outcome is. But this is far too transformative, far too revolutionary a legislation that one House will vote and the other House will speak. I think, both the Houses must debate it. Both the Houses must be allowed to vote and this is something within the power of the Government to say, 'yes, we will introduce the CGST Bill and the IGST Bill as Financial Bills and both the Houses will debate, both the Houses will vote', and I ask the Finance Minister that assurance, and, I say, after the debate, my Party will support this Bill, but we require assurances from the Finance Minister.”

The opposition has also demanded that the standard rate of GST which applies to most of the goods and services, over 70 per cent of goods and services, should not exceed 18 per cent and the lower rate and the demerit rate can be worked on that 18 per cent.