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At 18%, GST Rate to be Less Taxing for Most Goods

About 70% of all goods and some consumer durables likely to cost less

A number of goods such as cosmetics, shaving creams, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, plastics, paints and some consumer durables could become cheaper under the proposed goods and services tax (GST) regime as most items are likely to be subject to the rate of 18% rather than the higher one of 28%.

India is likely to rely on the effective tax rate currently applicable on a commodity to get a fix on the GST slab, said a government official, allowing most goods to make it to the lower bracket.

For instance, if an item comes within the 12% excise slab but the effective tax is 8% due to abatement, then the latter will be considered for GST fitment.

Going by this formulation, about 70% of all goods could fall in the 18% bracket.

The GST Council has finalised a four-tier tax structure of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% but has left room for the highest slab to be pegged at 40%. A committee of officials will work out the fitment and the council will take a final call at its next meeting on May 18-19. GST, India's biggest tax reform in decades, is expected to be rolled out on July 1.

The government is keen to avoid price shocks following the switchover to GST and the fitment exercise will be guided by this principle. The GST legislation contains an anti-profiteering clause to ensure that industry passes on tax benefits to consumers by lowering prices where applicable.

GST seeks to replace central taxes including central excise, service tax and cesses along with state taxes including value-added tax, purchase tax and entertainment tax by a single levy, thus creating a unified national market. Moreover, industry will be eligible for seamless input tax credit that should also drive down prices as tax embedding through imposition of tax on tax inflates the final
price of a product.

By slashing costs and boosting efficiency, GST will result in GDP growth getting a 1-2 percentage point lift, according to experts.

Final fitment should be based on effective tax rate to lower tax burden on consumers, they said.

“In most consumer products, excise duty is applied on MRP (maximum retail price) less abatement of 30-35%,“ said Pratik Jain, leader, indirect tax, PwC. “So, if MRP is 100, effective excise duty works out to 8-9%.When you add a standard VAT of around 13%, the effective rate works out to 21-22%. One would hope that most of these products, which include most FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) and consumer durables, would be subjected to 18% GST and not 28%. If not, it would increase the tax burden on consumers and intended benefits of GST in terms of lower prices and increased manufacturing would be difficult to realise."



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