Dr. Sanjiv Agarwal
The full Budget of 2014-15 is going to be the first official opportunity to implement the economic agenda where in Government will have to do a fine but difficult task of managing the conflicting needs of variety of stakeholders – business & industry, trade, commerce, exporters, banks, investors, agriculturists, house-holds, society and politics as well. The forthcoming budget should not only be investor friendly and taxpayer friendly but also be forward looking and progressive giving policy directions and accelerating growth.
Initiated by earlier NDA Government, GST has been talked about by all Governments since then. Now that we have a stable Government, the Budget should clearly redefine the road map to much awaited GST and announce a sunset date for the transition to GST regime. It could be 2015 or even 2016, given the issues pending with the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on GST.
The BJP Government is likely to make implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) a priority as it gets down to work. The Finance Minister held a meeting with officials of the Revenue Department of direct tax and indirect tax to get an overview of the taxation issues. The Revenue Department has been asked to prepare a presentation for the new Finance Minister, detailing the features and architecture of GST, the areas of disagreement with State Governments and other issues that have delayed the implementation of the indirect tax regime. The Finance Minister is also expected to soon meet various State Finance Ministers to sort out differences and ensure an early rollout of GST. It is hoped that new Government may be able to move the official amendments to the Constitution Amendment Bill, key to the introduction of GST in the monsoon session of Parliament.
It has already been hinted out that the Government is keen on early rollout of GST. The BJP manifesto had promised to bring on board all State Governments in adopting GST. Earlier Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh were opposed to GST format but since both these states are governed by the same ruling party as at the centre, there is bound to be greater harmony this time which may pave a way for earlier implementation. Finance Minster will have to build consensus about the GST among State Governments. GST ought to be the top priority in the Budget.
On indirect tax front, while there is a need for systemic reforms and forward looking pro-growth steps in general, the Budget should lay emphasis on the following specific issues, besides laying a clear-cut road map for GST implementation:
So far as tax administration and reforms are concerned, it is expected that besides introducing DTC and GST at the earliest, it should aim at enhancing efficiency in tax administration, cutting down on tax collection costs, making law simpler and reducing tax litigation – existing and potential, substantially.