Government looks to budget session for passing GST Bill

New Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) The government is mulling waiting till the budget session of parliament to secure passage for the Goods and Services Tax Bill, a highly placed source said on Wednesday.

The government is expecting improved numbers in the Rajya Sabha in April 2016 since a number of Congress members are retiring in March and April next year.

In March, five nominated members of the upper house are retiring. The BJP-led government will get to nominate new members.

“Instead of getting the bill passed now with compromises, we can get it passed in April 2016,” the source said.

The source said in April, there will be at least 17 more members supporting the GST.

“If not in April, the GST can be implemented in May, or June or July… it will be a matter of delay of a few months only,” the source added.

The next target of implementing the GST is likely to be set at June 2016.

According to government sources, all parties, except the Congress and AIADMK, are supporting the GST Bill at present.

The Congress is adamant on at least three changes in the GST Bill to enable its passage in the Rajya Sabha.

One of the demands is that the states do not have powers to levy additional tax over the 18 percent tax rate that forms part of the Constitutional Amendment Bill.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said placing the demand for cap in the constitutional amendment was difficult to accept.

“Are tariffs part of the constitution? Can tariffs ever be cast in stone?” Jaitley said at an interactive session here on GST organised by industry chambers here.

“Suppose there is a drought or a flood in 10 states and for one week you need to raise the tariffs, are you then going to amend the constitution?” he asked.

“GST is an idea which I have no doubt that, if not today, tomorrow it has to be approved; we are just going through the agony prior to the passage of the bill,” the finance minister said.

A constitutional amendment measure, the GST Bill needs to be passed by a two third majority in both houses of parliament and by the legislatures of half of the states in the country to become law.

This will enable the GST to be introduced across the country. Following this, parliament and state legislatures will need to pass the GST bills that impose central and state GSTs.

The government is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha. The bill was sent to a select committee of the upper house, and a report is with the house now.

The GST is seen as key to facilitating industrial growth and improving business climate in the country.

By subsuming most indirect taxes levied by the central and state governments such as excise duty, service tax, Value Added Tax and sales tax, the Goods and Services Tax proposes to facilitate a common market across the country.

The government earlier wanted to implement the new GST from April 2016.

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