A day after Rajya Sabha cleared the long-pending Constitution Amendment Bill, the government on Thursday said it was hoping that at least 16 states ratify the legislation over the next 30 days for rolling out goods and services tax (GST) from April. “We are trying to reach the target date of April 1,” revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia said at a press conference.
While the Bill is headed back to Lok Sabha next week to get a clearance for the amendments that have been incorporated, the next step – formation of the crucial GST Council comprising states and the Centre – depends on ratification by the state legislatures.
A Constitution Amendment Bill needs to be cleared by two-thirds of the members of both Houses of Parliament and half the state legislatures – 16 states with two Union territories (Delhi and Puducherry). With some state assemblies having concluded their monsoon sessions, governments could look at convening special sessions. Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das told TOI, “If needed, we will look at a special session for three-four days for passage of the bill.”
Adhia also identified seven challenges that needed to be dealt with for smooth implementation of GST, starting with the revenue-neutral rate (15-15.5%) to the actual tax bands.
There are several other ticklish issues such as the threshold limit of imposition of GST, which has been proposed at Rs 10 lakh by the states, while the Centre wants it to be Rs 25 lakh. While the government is trying to pitch the tax reform as another initiative towards ease of doing business, the revenue secretary elaborated on the online tax platform. He said the common modules for registration, returns and payments were being developed by GSTN, the not-for-profit company developing the platform.
The back-end processes for tax authorities are also being readied and should be in place by the end of December. The testing for the front- and back-end modules is slated to be conducted between January and March.
The government has also lined up a massive training programme for 60,000 officers of Centre and states on GST laws and IT framework and it would include the “lowest-level assessing officer”. In fact, some 25 officers have already been trained and another 350 master trainers would be prepared by the middle of the month. The entire training process would be completed by December.