Local Goa News

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tax Indica: Will it become a reality? Rajya Sabha to take up GST bill today

The D-day for the Indian economy falls on Wednesday (today), when the Rajya Sabha finally takes up the ambitious Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill to make India a one-tax country.

After two years of protracted negotiations and behind-the-scene dramas, the government now has an understanding with the Congress and other regional parties, except the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), whose dissent doesn't matter now, with the main Opposition on board.

Even though the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of the Upper House has sanctioned a five-hour debate, with smaller parties and Independent MPs wanting to press their points, the discussions may go till Thursday. The crucial legislation will bring about the biggest change in the country's tax structure since Independence.

Copies of the constitutional amendment to the GST Bill were circulated to Rajya Sabha members after much fuss on Tuesday. Leaders from the Congress and the Trinamool Congress briefly interrupted the proceedings of the House, demanding a copy of the draft Bill.

Soon after the copies were circulated, top Congress leaders got into a huddle to chalk out the party's strategy. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi held a meeting with the party's Lok Sabha leader, Mallikarjun Kharge, former finance minister and now Rajya Sabha member P Chidambaram and the deputy leader of the party in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, to discuss the key tax reform legislation.

Azad, who is on a trip to Uttar Pradesh, however, could not attend the strategic meet. He is expected to be in the House on Wednesday when the Bill will be tabled.

While Kharge said that Gandhi met the leaders to discuss the party's strategy, another top Congress leader said the draft Bill has just been circulated and party leaders will react only after studying it in detail.

"We would list the Bill for consideration on Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha. We have talked to all parties and the Prime Minister had said at the beginning of this session that GST is in the interest of all. We hope the Bill will be passed with consensus," parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar told reporters after the BJP parliamentary party meeting. At the BJP meet, Jaitley also briefed the MPs about the Bill.

Throughout the day, finance minister Arun Jaitley met Anand Sharma, Sitaram Yechury and his own party colleagues.

According to sources, the government is keen on bringing about four key amendments in the Constitution Amendment Bill, which will include the scrapping of a 1% additional tax provision and more powers to states for providing them full compensation for five years. The key Congress demand for rephrasing the language for setting up a dispute resolution mechanism in the GST Council has also been agreed to by the government.

Once implemented, the GST will replace all versions of indirect tax levies, including VAT, octroi, excise duty, service tax and any other state-level taxes. With the Congress's demand of inclusion of GST rate in the constitution, rejected outright by the BJP and bigger regional parties like the RJD and the TMC, the rate might find place in the supporting legislation that will come up after the constitutional amendment.

Since there are key amendments to the original draft of the Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha last year, the Bill will once again go back to Lok Sabha, once the Upper House clears it. Once these amendments are passed in both Houses, the final version will go to the state assemblies. At least half of them will have to ratify the Bill before it becomes part of the statute.

DNA India News

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