April 1, 2017 target for GST tough, but deadlines better: Jaitley (Roundup)

New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) The government on Thursday said April 1 next year will be the target date for the roll-out of a pan-India Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime though Finance Minister Arun Jaitley termed it as a difficult task to achieve, given the future steps involved.

The states have also been asked to ratify the GST bill within 30 days of the President’s assent to the landmark legislation.

“The GST roll-out deadline of April 1, 2017, is certainly stiff. But it’s still better to have a deadline,” the Finance Minister told reporters at a briefing here, a day after the Rajya Sabha passed the relevant Constitution amendment bill unanimously.

“But we will try to be reasonably quick and hope to meet the target.”

Jaitley’s remarks came after Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia made a presentation before the media here, explaining the roadmap to implement the GST, while also spelling out the target date for its launch.

He said that by the Winter Session of Parliament the government hoped to get all the requisite bills connected with the GST roll-out passed, adding: “By December 2016, all the back-end and front-end IT systems required for GST are also expected to be ready, followed by testing.”

He said 60,000 officers will be trained and outreach programme launched for trade and industry.

With half the states required to ratify what technically will be the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Act, 2014, the Revenue Secretary said at least 16 of them need to give assent. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies are in power in 13 states.

Finance Minister Jaitley said once the GST rolls out, doing business in India will be easier and help a large body of traders and citizens. “There was a public anxiety, almost an exasperation, over the delay,” he said. “That’s now over,” he added.

“One of the most significant aspects is that the GST bill was passed with unanimity.”

The Revenue Secretary explained the next steps forward, covering the legal framework, the IT and logistical framework and the training and outreach required for offices, as also trade and industry.

On the legal side, once the states ratify the Constitution amendment bill, the central government has to pass an integrated law as also a central GST law, and the states have to pass their own legislations as well. The government has targeted the Winter Session of Parliament for the same.

Alongside, the cabinet has to constitute a GST Council, which is expected to have nearly the same set up as the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers, but chaired by the Union Finance Minister. The GST rules have to be notified.

On the IT and infrastructure front, the government has targeted that the systems for the indirect tax administration — both at the central and state levels — be set up by November this year, while also involving all stakeholders, including the banks and accounting authorities.

An IT network is also to be erected for which a non-profit, non-government company has been set up called Goods and Services Tax Network that will formulate the front-end and back-end modules — the deadline is 2016-end.

“Testing of and integration of GST front-end and back-end before the stakeholders will be done between January and March next year,” Adhia said. “Some 60,000 officers will also be trained by December 2016.”

What are the challenges?

The Revenue Secretary broadly listed the challenges as the calculation of revenue base for the Centre and the states, the actual GST rates structure, preparation of the list of exemptions, forging a consensus, and cross-empowering the Centre and states in decision-making and dispute resolution.



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