Yesterday, the government circulated certain official amendments to the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014 on GST. The Bill is currently pending in Rajya Sabha. The Bill was introduced and passed in Lok Sabha in May 2015. It was then referred to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha which submitted its report in July 2015. With the Bill listed for passage this week, we explain key provisions in the Bill, and the amendments proposed. What is the GST? Currently, indirect taxes are imposed on goods and services. These include excise duty, sales tax, service tax, octroi, customs duty etc. Some of these taxes are levied by the centre and some by the states. For taxes imposed by states, the tax rates may vary across different states. Also, goods and services are taxed differently. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a value added tax levied across goods and services at the point of consumption. The idea of a GST regime is to subsume most indirect taxes under a single taxation regime. This is expected to help broaden the tax base, increase tax compliance, and reduce economic distortions caused by inter-state variations in taxes. What does the 2014 Bill on GST do? The 2014 Bill amends the Constitution to give concurrent powers to Parliament and state legislatures to levy a Goods and Services tax (GST). This implies that the centre will levy a central GST (CGST), while states will be permitted to levy a state GST (SGST). For goods and services that pass through several states, or imports, the centre will levy another tax, the Integrated GST (IGST). Alcohol for human consumption has been kept out of the purview of GST. Further, GST will be levied on 5 types of petroleum products at a later date, to be decided by the GST Council. The Council is a body comprising of Finance Ministers of the centre and all states (including Delhi and Puducherry). This body will make recommendations in relation to the implementation of GST, including the rates, principles of levy, etc. The Council is also to decide the modalities for resolution of disputes that arise out of its recommendations. States may be given compensation for any revenue losses they may face from the introduction of the GST regime. Such compensation may be provided for a period of up to five years. Further, the centre may levy an additional tax, up to 1%, in the course of interstate trade. The revenues from the levy of this tax will be given to the state from where the good originates. Expert bodies like the Select Committee and the Arvind Subramanian Committee have observed that this provision could lead to cascading of taxes (as tax on tax will be levied).[i] It also distorts the creation of a national market, as a product made in one state and sold in another would be more expensive than one made and sold within the same state. What are the key changes proposed by the 2016 amendments? The amendments propose three key changes to the 2014 Bill. They relate to (i) additional tax up to 1%; (ii) compensation to states; and (iii) dispute resolution by the GST Council.
These amendments will be taken up for discussion with the Bill in Rajya Sabha this week. The Bill requires a special majority for its passage as it is a Constitution Amendment Bill (that is at least 50% majority of the total membership in the House, and 2/3rds majority of all members present and voting). If the Bill is passed with amendments, it will have to be sent back to Lok Sabha for consideration and passage. After its passage in Parliament, at least 50% state legislatures will have to pass resolutions to ratify the Bill. Once the constitutional framework is in place, the centre will have to pass simple laws to levy CGST and IGST. Similarly, all states will have to pass a simple law on SGST. These laws will specify the rates of the GST to be levied, the goods and services that will be included, the threshold of the turnover of businesses to be included, etc. Note that the Arvind Subramanian Committee, set up by the Finance Ministry, recommended the rates of GST that may be levied. The table below details the bands of rates proposed.
|Table 1: Rates of GST recommended by Expert Committee headed by Arvind Subramanian|
|Type of rate||Rate||Details|
|Revenue Neutral Rate||15%||Single rate which maintains revenue at current levels.|
|Standard Rate||17-18%||Too be applied to most goods and services|
|Lower rates||12%||To be applied to certain goods consumed by the poor|
|Demerit rate||40%||To be applied on luxury cars, aerated beverages, paan masala, and tobacco|
|Source: Arvind Subramanian Committee Report (2015)|
Several other measures related to the back end infrastructure for registration and reporting of GST, administrative officials related to GST, etc. will also have to be put in place, before GST can be rolled out. [For further details on the full list of amendments, please see here. For other details on the GST Bill, please see here.]
Discussion on the first no-confidence motion of the 17th Lok Sabha began today. No-confidence motions and confidence motions are trust votes, used to test or demonstrate the support of Lok Sabha for the government in power. Article 75(3) of the Constitution states that the government is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. This means that the government must always enjoy the support of a majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Trust votes are used to examine this support. The government resigns if a majority of members support a no-confidence motion, or reject a confidence motion.
So far, 28 no-confidence motions (including the one being discussed today) and 11 confidence motions have been discussed. Over the years, the number of such motions has reduced. The mid-1960s and mid-1970s saw more no-confidence motions, whereas the 1990s saw more confidence motions.
Figure 1: Trust votes in Parliament
Note: *Term shorter than 5 years; **6-year term.
Source: Statistical Handbook 2021, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; PRS.
The no-confidence motion being discussed today was moved on July 26, 2023. A motion of no-confidence is moved with the support of at least 50 members. The Speaker has the discretion to allot time for discussion of the motion. The Rules of Procedure state that the motion must be discussed within 10 days of being introduced. This year, the no-confidence motion was discussed 13 calendar days after introduction. Since the introduction of the no-confidence motion on July 26, 12 Bills have been introduced and 18 Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha. In the past, on four occasions, the discussion on no-confidence motions began seven days after their introduction. On these occasions, Bills and other important issues were debated before the discussion on the no-confidence motion began.
Figure 2: Members rise in support of the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha