The GST Council has decided to exempt sanitary napkins from the ambit of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and reduce the rates of consumer electronics such as TVs, washing machines apart from kitchen appliances in its 28th meeting held today in the national capital. Demands to remove taxes on sanitary napkins under uniform indirect tax regime were raised strongly ever since it was rolled out on July 1, 2017. Sanitary napkins used to attract 12 per cent tax under GST.
"A 100 per cent exemption has been put into effect on sanitary napkins. No tax (under GST) will be levied on sanitary napkins," interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said while addressing reporters after the GST Council meet. Small handicraft items have also been exempted from GST.
Fortified milk, which is milk with added vitamins and nutritional supplement, has also been exempted from GST like normal milk, he further added. Before the festival of Rakshabandhan, the GST Council has also decided to exempt rakhis without gold, precious and semi-precious stones from GST.
Relief for middle class
GST rates for several items were rationalised by the GST Council today, out of which 17 saw tax rates slashed from 28 per cent to 18 per cent. The changes in GST rates will come into effect from July 27. The major relief for middle-class consumers came in the form of GST rate cut from 28 per cent to 18 per cent on consumer electronics. This will encompass television sets up to 28-inch in size or smaller, washing machines, refrigerators, kitchen appliances and more. GST on paints, varnishes, wall putty, leather items, special purpose vehicles, trucks and trailers have also been reduced to 18 per cent from 28 per cent.
The council reduced the tax levied on bamboo flooring to 12 per cent in a bid to promote bamboo cultivation. Also, GST will now be charged on actual tariff of hotels, instead of their declared tariffs. Till now, 28 per cent GST was charged on bills of five-star hotels with declared tariff of Rs 7,500 or more, which will now be charged if their actual tariffs is 7,500 or more. Also, now footwear worth Rs 1000 or less, instead of Rs 500, will attract 5 per cent GST.
No decision on petrol
While no decision was taken on including petroleum products in the GST regime, the GST Council did cut down the tax rate for ethanol, which is used for blending in petrol and diesel, from 18 per cent to 5 per cent.
"The rate reductions approved today will be beneficial to 1.25 billion population of India. These rationalisations also are, in a way, recognition of the support shown by taxpayers and businesses towards GST collection," Goyal said.
The interim Finance Minister also pointed out that the GST Council will not only be driven by revenue collection, but will also take into account aspects like employment generation and GDP growth while taking decisions.
GST return filing simplified
In its 28th meeting, the all-powerful GST Council also took steps to simplify the GST return filing process. Now traders with annual turnover up to Rs 5 crore need to file GST returns quarterly, whereas those above this threshold will have to file their returns on a monthly basis.
While the taxes will have to be paid every month, traders with an annual turnover up to Rs 5 crore will have to file tax returns every three months, said Goyal.
"It will take some time to be implemented. A deifinite timeline will be declared once we are informed about it by the GST Network," Goyal said.
Two simplified forms for GST returns, Sugam and Sahaj, have also been approved for business-to-business and business-to-consumer enterprises by the GST Council.
No decision on sugar cess
The issue of sugar cess was also reportedly taken up by the GST Council during its meeting today, but a definitive decision has not been reached yet. A report has been submitted in this regard but no decision has been taken on sugar cess yet. A one per cent sugar cess was proposed to assist sugarcane farmers and sugar mills.
The GST Council also deferred Reverse Charge Mechanism (RCM) by a year to September 30, 2019.
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