GST not ready for July 1 roll-out: Bengal Finance Minister

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Kolkata, May 30 (IANS) Arguing that the Goods and Services Tax regime was not fully “ready and prepared”, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra – the chairman of the empowered committee on the issue – on Tuesday said the new system should not be rolled out from July 1.

“GST is not fully prepared and ready, rules and forms are not completed. So July 1 must not be finalised as the date for the roll-out of GST,” Mitra told media persons here.

He expressed doubts over whether the small and medium-scale industries were equipped to handle the new tax regime and pointed out that West Bengal has sought reduction in the proposed rates for a number of products.

“Until and unless there is a consensus and a solution is reached on GST, the required legislation will not be introduced in the Bengal assembly,” he said.

Mitra said he has written a letter on the issue.

State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said Mitra will again write to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley about the points of disagreement.

Citing examples, Mitra said the “fight was still on” against the proposal to levy 12 per cent tax on cashew nuts.

“They had said that shoes would be taxed at 12 per cent. We have proposed that shoes costing up to Rs 500 should be tax-free. Why should slippers worn by poor people be taxed?” he asked.

Refering to the regional film industry, the noted economist said films in Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya and Kannada so far attracted zero per cent tax, while the rate in West Bengal was a nominal two per cent for Bengali films.

“Now the Centre is thinking of imposing a 28 per cent tax. We will fight this. If regional films are taxed at 28 per cent, won’t they be finished?”

Mitra said he has already called up Finance Ministers of the states where regional films attract zero per cent tax and asked them to speak out on the issue at the June 3 GST Council meeting.

Even the proposed rate for single screen theatres was 28 per cent.

“We have to fight this out also,” he said.

Mitra also demanded that like text books, non-text books should also be exempt from GST.

He also alleged that the centre was resorting to “twists” to overburden the poor people.

“Human hair is exempt for GST. But the moment the hair is bleached and dressed for being sold as wigs or other items, it comes under the 28 per cent bracket. This will hit the livelihood of around 10 lakh people in our state who make both ends meet by dealing in processed hair,” he added.

–IANS

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