A body by the name of Goods and Service Tax Council (“GST Council”) has been constituted by our Hon’ble President of India after the commencement of the Constitution (One Hundred and first Amendment) Act, 2016. The GST Council is a constitutional body with duties outlined in Article 279A of our Constitution. GST Council shall have Union Finance Minister, Union Minister of State in charge of Revenue and Minister in charge of Finance or Taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State Government as its members. Quorum for meetings of the GST Council shall be 50% of the total members i.e. atleast 17 members. Every decision of the Goods and Services Tax Council shall be taken at a meeting, by a majority of not less than three-fourths of the weighted votes of the members present and voting. In assigning the weights to the votes, our Constitution provides that total votes of all states shall together constitute two third weightage and weightage of the vote of Central government shall be one third.
GST Council is entrusted with many important decisions. As per the governing Article, GST Council shall recommend to Central Government an Governments of states and Union territories with legislature on many issues including but not limited to taxes to be levied, goods and / or services to be exempted, rates of taxes, Model GST law, threshold limit for exemption, period of levy of additional tax, principles of supply, special provisions to certain states etc. GST Council shall also recommend the date on which taxation of petroleum crude, high speed diesel, motor spirit, natural gas and aviation turbine fuel shall be subsumed in GST.
Recent news have been received in public domain as an outcome of first meeting of the Council which held on 22nd and 23rd September, some of which are as follows. In relation to threshold limit, it has been made known that no GST shall be levied on turnover up to 10 lakhs for hill and special states and 20 lakh for all other states. It is also informed that Jurisdiction of the assessee having Turnover below 1.5 crores shall vest with state tax officials and above 1.5 crores with both Centre and State. Also, Centre shall have exclusive administration on service providers till the time states become competent to administer this regime.
It has been informed that all decisions have been made unanimously. However, to our surprise, no formal communication is available in public domain to general public of so called ‘decisions’ of the GST Council. Thus, though we have been hearing about the decisions of GST councils from various mediums, there is no authenticity of the information that can be quoted. Thus, it seems that GST council is working in a manner which is no better than a government department. If there is a decision taken by GST council it should be communicated on their official website by way of a proper press release / minutes of the meeting. If the same is not a decision, it should not be allowed to be spread as a grapevine and to the mercy of news channels. Like, European union, GST Council should communicate its decisions only by way of Directives as it can only present recommendations and basis such directives let all governments form proper laws. These directives would form basis for government to frame their laws and for citizens to analyse the impact of forthcoming changes on their business. Thus, a proper communication of decisions of GST Council is as important as the decisions taken in their meetings, else, its decision would again remain a matter of guess work by the taxpayers and that too from unquotable sources.