As consultations to work out product-wise levies began here on Thursday, state finance ministers, cutting across party lines, said they were working to roll out the goods and services tax from July.
The statements came amid suggestions from West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra that businesses were not ready for a transition and this could impact the economy and state finances.
While Mitra did not recommend a date, there have been suggestions in some quarters that it would be better to launch the biggest tax reform initiative from September. The outer limit for GST rollout is mid-September given that the Constitution amendment provided a one-year window.
“Now it’s only a question of details. We are working towards the July 1 deadline. Most of the issues have been sorted out but we need to ensure that the exercise is revenue-neutral (which will not impact consumers),” Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac said while demanding a minimum 5% levy on gold. “Gold is luxury, not a necessity. In the last decade, price has quadrupled and nobody had any problem. So what is the big trouble with 5% tax,” he said. States are split over the levy with some such as Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra backing a lower 1% tax on the yellow metal.
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia suggested that the AAP government was in favour of a July launch. He said the definition of service where it is delivered was vague and sought clarification.
Tax ministers have huddled in the high-security conference centre next to Dal Lake to work out product-specific rates while deciding on slabs for service tax.
Given the universal support, most issues are expected to be resolved at the two-day meeting of the GST Council, the apex decision-making agency for the new tax. It consists of state FMs and is headed by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley