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GST Rate Rationalisation

  • Published
    14th Dec, 2023

The ministerial group on GST rate rationalisation, dormant since the BJP's electoral setback in Karnataka in May, has been reinstated. The move suggests a renewed focus on simplifying the GST structure and revising its multiple rates.


Reconstituted Ministerial Group

  • Former Karnataka CM BasavarajBommai led the original group, which had stalled post-election defeat.
  • Karnataka's revenue minister Krishna Byre Gowda is included, with UP Finance Minister Suresh Kumar Khanna as the new convenor.

Complex GST Structure

  • Despite four main slabs (5%, 12%, 18%, 28%), numerous rates exist, complicating compliance.
  • Urgent need for simplification expressed by tax experts and industry leaders.

Revenue Stability and Policy Shift

  • GST revenues at a robust ?1.6 lakh crore.
  • Resumption of rate rationalisation indicates a policy shift.
  • Multiple rates lead to compliance issues, urging policymakers to simplify for industry, revenue department, and investor certainty.

Terms of Reference and Future Considerations:

  • GoM to review tax slab rates, recommend changes for required resources.
  • Consideration of GST Compensation Cess's future after March 2026.

Industry Calls for Reform:

  • Industry leaders advocate a three-slab GST structure for business ease.
  • GST Compensation Cess under review, as suggested by CII president R Dinesh.


  • In India, the idea of adopting GST was first suggested by the AtalBihari Vajpayee Government in 2000.
  • The state finance ministers formed an Empowered Committee (EC) to create a structure for GST, based on their experience in designing State VAT.
  • In 2002, the Vajpayee government formed a task force under Vijay Kelkarto recommend tax reforms.
  • In 2005, the Kelkar committee recommended rolling out GST as suggested by the 12th Finance Commission.

What is GST?

  • GST was introduced through the 101st Constitution Amendment Act, 2016.
  • It is one of the biggest indirect tax reforms in the country.
  • It was introduced with the slogan of ‘One Nation One Tax’.


  • mitigate the double taxation, cascading effect of taxes, multiplicity of taxes, classification issues etc., and has led to a common national market.
  • The GST that a merchant pays to procure goods or services (i.e. on inputs) can be set off later against the tax applicable on supply of final goods and services.
  • The set off tax is called input tax credit.
  • The GST avoids the cascading effect or tax on tax which increases the tax burden on the end consumer.
  • Levied on:
  • The GST has subsumed indirect taxes like excise duty, Value Added Tax (VAT), service tax, luxury tax etc.
  • It is essentially a consumption tax and is levied at the final consumption point.

Tax structure under GST:

  • Central GST to cover Excise duty, Service tax etc.
  • State GST to cover VAT, luxury tax etc.
  • Integrated GST (IGST) to cover inter-state trade.
  • IGST per se is not a tax but a system to coordinate state and union taxes.
  • It has a 4-tier tax structure for all goods and services under the slabs- 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%.

What is the Significance of GST?

  • Create a Unified Common Market: Help to create a unified common national market for India. It will also give a boost to foreign investment and “Make in India” campaign.
  • Streamline Taxation: It will harmonize the laws, procedures and rates of tax between Centre and States and across States.
  • Increase Tax Compliance: Provide improved environment for compliance as all returns are to be filed online, input credits to be verified online, encouraging more paper trail of transactions at each level of supply chain;

Role of GST Council

  • The GST Council is a joint forum of the Centre and the states.
  • It was set up by the President as per Article 279A (1) of the amended Constitution
  • Members:
  • The members of the Council include the Union Finance Minister (chairperson), the Union Minister of State (Finance) from the Centre.
  • Each state can nominate a minister in-charge of finance or taxation or any other minister as a member.
  • Functions:
  • The Council, is meant to “make recommendations to the Union and the states on important issues related to GST, like the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST, model GST Laws”.
  • It also decides on various rate slabs of GST.
  • Discourage Tax evasion: Uniform SGST and IGST rates will reduce the incentive for evasion by eliminating rate arbitrage between neighbouring States and that between intra and inter-state sales.
  • Reduce Corruption: Greater use of IT will reduce human interface between the taxpayer and the tax administration, which will go a long way in reducing corruption.
  • Boost Secondary Sector: It will boost export and manufacturing activity, generate more employment and thus increase GDP (Gross Domestic Product) with gainful employment leading to substantive economic growth.

What are the issues associated with GST?

  • Multiple Tax Rates: Unlike many other economies which have implemented this tax regime, India has multiple tax rates. This hampers the progress of a single indirect tax rate for all the goods and services in the country.
  • New Cesses crop up: While GST scrapped multiplicity of taxes and cesses, a new levy in the form of compensation cess was introduced for luxury and sin goods. This was later expanded to include automobiles.
  • Trust Deficit: The Union government’s authority to levy and appropriate cess revenues for it without sharing them with the states has lent credence to the wisdom of guaranteed compensation for states.
  • It turned out to be prescient as GST failed to live up to its economic promises and states’ revenues were protected through this guarantee.
  • Economy outside GST purview: Nearly half the economy remains outside GST. E.g. petroleum, real estate, electricity duties remain outside GST purview.
  • The complexity of tax filings: The GST legislation requires the filing of the GST annual returns by specified categories of taxpayers along with a GST audit. But, filing annual returns is a complex and confusing one for the taxpayers. Apart from that, the annual filing also includes many details that are waived in the monthly and quarterly filings.
  • Higher Tax Rates: Though rates are rationalised, there is still 50 % of items are under the 18 % bracket.
  • Apart from that, there are certain essential items to tackle the pandemic that was also taxed higher.
  • For example, the 12% tax on oxygen concentrators, 5% on vaccines, and on relief supplies from abroad.
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