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Goods and Services Tax for beginners

07 June 2017

The Goods and Services Tax or GST is scheduled to be launched on 1 July 2017, and it is set to revolutionise 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?

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

To understand this, we need to understand the concepts under this definition. Let us start with the term ‘multi-stage’. Now, there are multiple steps an item goes through from manufacture or production to the final sale. Buying of raw materials is the first stage. The second stage is production or manufacture. Then, there is the warehousing of materials. Next, comes the sale of the product to the retailer. And in the final stage, the retailer sells you – the end consumer – the product, completing its life cycle.

Now, what is value addition?

Let us assume that a manufacturer wants to make a shirt. For this he must buy yarn. This gets turned into a shirt after manufacture. So, the value of the yarn is increased when it gets woven into a shirt. Then, the manufacturer sells it to the warehousing agent who attaches labels and tags to each shirt. That is another addition of value after which the warehouse sells it to the retailer who packages each shirt separately and invests in marketing of the shirt thus increasing its value.

GST will be levied on these value additions – the monetary worth added at each stage to achieve the final sale to the end customer.

The other term is Destination-Based.

Goods and Services Tax will be levied on all transactions happening during the entire manufacturing chain. Earlier, when a product was manufactured, the centre would levy an Excise Duty on the manufacture, and then the state will add a VAT tax when the item is sold to the next stage in the cycle. Then there would be a VAT at the next point of sale.

Now, Goods and Services Tax will be levied at every point of sale. Assume that the entire manufacture process is happening in Rajasthan and the final point of sale is in Karnataka. Since Goods and Services Tax is levied at the point of consumption, so the state of Rajasthan will get revenue in the manufacturing and warehousing stages, but lose out on the revenue when the product moves out Rajasthan and reaches the end consumer in Karnataka. This means that Karnataka will earn that revenue on the final sale, because it is a destination-based tax and this revenue will be collected at the final point of sale/destination which is Karnataka.

Why is GST so Important?

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?

A nationwide tax reform cannot function without strict guidelines and provisions. The GST Council has devised a fool proof method of implementing this new tax regime by dividing it into three categories. Wondering how they work? Let our experts explain this to you in detail.

When Goods and Services Tax is implemented, there will be three 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

How will GST help India?

The basis of Goods and Services Tax is the seamless flow of Input Tax Credit (ITC) along the entire value addition chain. At every step of the manufacturing process, businesses will have the option to claim the tax already paid in the previous transaction. Understanding this process is crucial for businesses.

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.

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.

At the end

The idea behind having one consolidated indirect tax to subsume multiple currently existing indirect taxes is to benefit the Indian economy in a number of ways:

It will help the country’s businesses gain a level playing field

It will put us on par with foreign nations who have a more structured tax system

It will also translate into gains for the end consumer who not have to pay cascading taxes any more

There will now be a single tax on goods and services

In addition to the above, the Goods and Services Tax Law aims at streamlining the indirect taxation regime. As mentioned above, GST will subsume all indirect taxes levied on goods and service, including State and Central level taxes. The GST mechanism is an advancement on the VAT system, the idea being that a unified GST Law will create a seamless nationwide market.

It is also expected that Goods and Services Tax will improve the collection of taxes as well as boost the development of Indian economy by removing the indirect tax barriers between states and integrating the country through a uniform tax rate.

What is GSTIN?

So far, for any dealer registered under state VAT law, a unique TIN number is issued by the respective state tax authorities. Similarly, a service provider is assigned a service tax registration number by the Central Board of Excise and Custom (CBEC).

Going forward, in the new GST regime, all these taxpayers will get consolidated into one single platform for compliance and administration purposes and will be assigned registration under a single authority. The government has set up GSTN–a special purpose vehicle to provide the IT infrastructure necessary to support GST digitally. It is expected that 8 million taxpayers will be migrated from various platforms into GST. All of these businesses will be assigned a unique Goods and Services Tax Identification Number (GSTIN). But most are yet not aware of the new registration process and the identification number.

Proposed GST Identification Number (GSTIN)

Here’s a complete break-up of the proposed GST Identification Number.

  • Each taxpayer will be allotted a state-wise PAN-based 15-digit Goods and Services Taxpayer Identification Number (GSTIN)
  • The first two digits of this number will represent the state code as per Indian Census 2011
  • The next ten digits will be the PAN number of the taxpayer
  • The thirteenth digit will be assigned based on the number of registration within a state
  • The fourteenth digit will be Z by default
  • The last digit will be for check code 

    (Courtesy cleartax.in)

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