It is a race against time to implement GST, says Jaitley

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said that the government is running against time to meet its ‘stiff’ target rollout date of April 1, 2017 for a new indirect tax regime. But Mr. Jaitley said it will strive to meet the deadline and introduce the necessary central legislation for the Goods and Services Tax in Parliament’s winter session, citing the agility with which state governments have ratified the Constitutional amendments already.

Speaking at the Economist India Summit in the capital, the Mr. Jaitley said that the long-pending tax reform will not just create a common nationwide market making seamless transfer of goods and services possible, but also plug leakages and lead to lower tax rates, once effectively implemented.

We have kept a very stiff target (for GST) and the reason is that there is a great national aspiration in support of the reform. And this is adequately exhibited by the fact that both Houses of Parliament have unanimously approved the legislation which is very rare. Secondly, state after state within a period of 20-25 days have kept on ratifying it,” he said, adding that enough states have now okayed the Constitutional amendments for them to be taken up for Presidential assent.

Mr. Jaitley said that the Lok Sabha Secretariat is in the process of collecting the legislative proceedings of all the 17 States that have ratified the Bill, so they may be sent to the President for ratification. An official said that these proceedings have so far been procured from 11 states out of the 15 states needed for moving forward with this procedural formality.

“Once the ascent is granted by the President, the Constitutional amendment will be notified and the GST council will be constituted. There are obviously some pending issues, which the council will have to resolve,” he said, referring to the need to reach a consensus on the GST rate and treatment of sectoral and geographical tax exemptions, among other things.

“So we have the months of September and October and parts of November to do that… there is a lot of work to do and if you are able to successfully transact those issues, then in the winter session of Parliament the central legislations with some drafts there in public domain, will have to be brought in. The states will have to pass their own legislations. Now if we look ahead it’s a very stiff target, we are running against time. But I would certainly like to give it a try,” the Minister said.

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