What is the difference between the current taxation and the new goods and services tax (GST) in India? What is the impact?

What is GST

The Goods and Services Tax or GST is scheduled to be launched on the 1st of July, and it is set to revolutionize the way we do our taxes. But what is GST and how will it reform the current tax structure? And most importantly, why does the country need such a huge overhaul in its taxation policies? We answer these pressing questions in this in-depth article.

What is GST?

Goods & Services Tax is a comprehensive, multi-stage, destination-based tax that will be levied on every value addition.

Why is Goods and Services Tax so Important?

So, now that we have defined GST, let us talk about why it will play such a significant role in transforming the current tax structure, and therefore, the economy.

Currently, the Indian tax structure is divided into two – Direct and Indirect Taxes. Direct Taxes are levies where the liability cannot be passed on to someone else. An example of this is Income Tax where you earn the income and you alone are liable to pay the tax on it.

In the case of Indirect Taxes, the liability of the tax can be passed on to someone else. This means that when the shopkeeper must pay VAT on his sale, he can pass on the liability to the customer. So, in effect, the customer pays the price of the item as well as the VAT on it so the shopkeeper can deposit the VAT to the government. This means that the customer must pay not just the price of the product, but he also pays the tax liability, and therefore, he has a higher outlay when he buys an item.

This happens because the shopkeeper has paid a tax when he bought the item from the wholesaler. To recover that amount, as well as to make up for the VAT he must pay to the government, he passes the liability to the customer who has to pay the additional amount. There is currently no other way for the shopkeeper to recover whatever he pays from his own pocket during transactions and therefore, he has no choice but to pass on the liability to the customer.

Goods and Services Tax will address this issue after it is implemented. It has a system of Input Tax Credit which will allow sellers to claim the tax already paid, so that the final liability on the end consumer is decreased.

How does GST work?

When Goods and Services Tax is implemented, there will be 3 kinds of applicable Goods and Services Taxes:

CGST: where the revenue will be collected by the central government

SGST: where the revenue will be collected by the state governments for intra-state sales

IGST: where the revenue will be collected by the central government for inter-state sales

In most cases, the tax structure under the new regime will be as follows:

Transaction New Regime Old Regime Comments
Sale within the state CGST + SGST VAT + Central Excise/Service tax Revenue will now be shared between the Centre and the State
Sale to another State IGST Central Sales Tax + Excise/Service Tax There will only be one type of tax (central) now in case of inter-state sales.

How will GST help India and common man?

To understand this, let us first understand what is Input Tax Credit. It is the credit an individual receives for the tax paid on the inputs used in manufacturing the product. So, if there is a 10% tax that the individual must submit to the government, he can subtract the amount he has paid in taxes at the time of purchase and submit the balance amount to the government.

Let us understand this with a hypothetical numerical example.

Say a shirt manufacturer pays Rs. 100 to buy raw materials. If the rate of taxes is set at 10%, and there is no profit or loss involved, then he has to pay Rs. 10 as tax. So, the final cost of the shirt now becomes Rs (100+10=) 110.

At the next stage, the wholesaler buys the shirt from the manufacturer at Rs. 110, and adds labels to it. When he is adding labels, he is adding value. Therefore, his cost increases by say Rs. 40. On top of this, he has to pay a 10% tax, and the final cost therefore becomes Rs. (110+40=) 150 + 10% tax = Rs. 165.

Now, the retailer pays Rs. 165 to buy the shirt from the wholesaler because the tax liability had passed on to him. He has to package the shirt, and when he does that, he is adding value again. This time, let’s say his value add is Rs. 30. Now when he sells the shirt, he adds this value (plus the VAT he has to pay the government) to the final cost. So, the cost of the shirt becomes Rs. 214.5 Let us see a breakup for this:

Cost = Rs. 165 + Value add = Rs. 30 + 10% tax = Rs. 195 + Rs. 19.5 = Rs. 214.5

So, the customer pays Rs. 214.5 for a shirt the cost price of which was basically only Rs. 170 (Rs 110 + Rs. 40 + Rs. 30). Along the way the tax liability was passed on at every stage of transaction and the final liability comes to rest with the customer. This is called the Cascading Effect of Taxes where a tax is paid on tax and the value of the item keeps increasing every time this happens.

Action Cost 10% Tax Total
Buys Raw Material @ 100 100 10 110
Manufactures @ 40 150 15 165
Adds value @ 30 195 19.5 214.5
Total 170 44.5 214.5

In the case of Goods and Services Tax, there is a way to claim credit for tax paid in acquiring input. What happens in this case is, the individual who has paid a tax already can claim credit for this tax when he submits his taxes.

In our example, when the wholesaler buys from the manufacturer, he pays a 10% tax on his cost price because the liability has been passed on to him. Then he adds value of Rs. 40 on his cost price of Rs. 100 and this brings up his cost to Rs. 140. Now he has to pay 10% of this price to the government as tax. But he has already paid one tax to the manufacturer. So, this time what he does is, instead of paying Rs (10% of 140=) 14 to the government as tax, he subtracts the amount he has paid already. So, he deducts the Rs. 10 he paid on his purchase from his new liability of Rs. 14, and pays only Rs. 4 to the government. So, the Rs. 10 becomes his input credit.

When he pays Rs. 4 to the government, he can pass on its liability to the retailer. So, the retailer pays Rs. (140+14=) 154 to him to buy the shirt. At the next stage, the retailer adds value of Rs. 30 to his cost price and has to pay a 10% tax on it to the government. When he adds value, his price becomes Rs. 170. Now, if he had to pay 10% tax on it, he would pass on the liability to the customer. But he already has input credit because he has paid Rs.14 to the wholesaler as the latter’s tax. So, now he reduces Rs. 14 from his tax liability of Rs. (10% of 170=) 17 and has to pay only Rs. 3 to the government. And therefore, he can now sell the shirt for Rs. (140+30+17) 187 to the customer.

Action Cost 10% Tax Actual Liability Total
Buys Raw Material 100 10 10 110
Manufactures @ 40 140 14 4 154
Adds Value @ 30 170 17 3 187
Total 170   17 187

In the end, every time an individual was able to claim input tax credit, the sale price for him reduced and the cost price for the person buying his product reduced because of a lower tax liability. The final value of the shirt also therefore reduced from Rs. 214.5 to Rs. 187, thus reducing the tax burden on the final customer.

So essentially, Goods & Services Tax is going to have a two-pronged benefit. One, it will reduce the cascading effect of taxes, and second, by allowing input tax credit, it will reduce the burden of taxes and, hopefully, prices.

How Will New Taxation System GST Work? Explained In 10 Points

  1. GST is a destination-based tax, as against the present principle of origin based taxation. The new tax regime follows a multi-stage collection mechanism wherein tax is collected at every stage and the credit of tax paid (input tax credit) at the previous stage is available as a set-off at the next stage of transaction. This helps to eliminate “tax or tax” or the cascading impact of tax. GST shifts the tax incidence near to the consumer and benefits the industry through better cash flows and better working capital management. From consumer point of view, GST helps to bring down overall tax.
  2. Input tax credit: This means that at the time of paying tax on output manufacturers or service providers, for example, can reduce the tax by the amount they have already paid on inputs. For example, a manufacturer’s total tax on output comes to Rs. 5,000 while tax paid on input (purchases) is Rs. 3,000. In this case, the manufacturer needs to deposit only Rs. 2,000 (Rs. 5,000 – Rs. 3,000) as tax, thus reducing the overall incidence of tax on final product. But credit available to the recipient (the manufacturer in this case) only if invoice is matched. So GST helps to huge evasion of taxes.
  3. GST rates: GST rates on goods and services have been broadly classified into four tax rates: 5 per cent, 12 per cent, 18 per cent and 28 per cent. Some goods and services would be exempt. Precious metals like gold will attract a separate tax rate of 3 per cent. A cess will be levied over the peak rate of 28 per cent on specified luxury and sin goods. Under GST, businesses are required to file returns each month. But the government has let companies file late returns for the first two months so that they can adapt to a new online filing system.
  4. CGST, SGST, IGST: The GST to be levied by the Centre would be called Central GST (CGST) and that to be levied by the States (including Union territories with legislature) would be called State GST (SGST). An Integrated GST (IGST) would be levied on inter-State supply (including stock transfers) of goods or services. This would be collected by the Centre. Import of goods would be treated as inter-State supplies and would be subject to IGST in addition to the applicable customs duties. Exports will be treated as zero-rated supplies which means no tax will be payable on exports of goods or services. However, exporters can claim input tax credit.
  5. Who is liable to pay GST? Businesses with an annual turnover of Rs. 20 lakh (Rs. 10 lakh for special category states) would be exempt from GST. A composition scheme (to pay tax at a flat rate without input credits) is available to manufacturers and service providers having an annual turnover of up to Rs. 75 lakh. The composition scheme is optional.
  6. Stocks in transition: On stocks unsold before GST rollout, manufacturers and retailers have been allowed to carry forward input tax credit for 90 days. On such goods they can claim as much as 60 per cent of the input tax credit on stocks lying unsold up to June 30.
  7. Anti-profiteering mechanism: An authority will be set up to see that any reduction in rate of tax of any supply of goods or services for the benefit of input tax credit will be passed on the recipient by commensurate reduction in prices. Anti-profiteering clause in GST is a deterrent which is not intended to be used unless forced to, says Finance Minister.
  8. Decision mechanism: GST Council will make recommendations on everything related to GST including laws, rules and rates etc. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley heads teh panel while ministers of finance or taxation of each state are its members. Decisions in the Council are taken by a 75 per cent majority. Centre and a minimum of 20 states are required for majority because Centre would have one-third weightage of the total votes cast and all the States taken together would have two-thirds of weightage.
  9. Not part of GST: Petroleum products such as petrol, diesel and aviation turbine fuel have been kept out of GST as of now. The GST Council will take a decision on it at a later date. Alcohol has also been kept out of GST.
  10. Administrative control: To ensure single interface, all administrative control of 90 per cent of taxpayers having turnover below Rs. 1.5 crore would vest with state tax administration while 10 per cent with the central tax administration. Further, all administrative control over taxpayers having turnover above Rs. 1.5 crore will be divided equally between central and state tax administrations. States will be compensated for any revenue loss from GST implementation for five years.