PATNA: Even as the Goods And Services Tax (GST) regime continues to undergo changes from time to time, it turns out it’s been a year since it was rolled out on July 1, 2017. TOI’s Anuja Shanker caught up with Patna commissioner (GST & central excise) Ranjit Kumar to ask him what’s up. Excerpts:
Q1. What were the major challenges in the GST implementation in Bihar?
Trade-based businesses abound in Bihar. A large number of them, flourishing in rural areas, are very small with little exposure to technology. The GST, on the other hand, is technologically driven as everything — from registration to return filing and application for refund to responding to notice, has to be done online. Trained chartered accountants and tax consultants, who could be of help to these traders, are not easily available in villages.
We, therefore, chalked out a Bihar-oriented strategy and opened help centres in the very beginning. Taxpayers would visit these centres with documents and officers concerned would help them get registered or file their returns. Even for small ‘bidi’ makers, we came up with separate help centres with the assistance of local trade bodies.
Q2. What are the issues yet to be resolved?
Barring some IT-related hitches during the initial months, the implementation has been smooth so far. Businessmen have welcomed the new tax regime with open arms even if it meant an additional expenditure on logistics.
Many a time, we receive complaints from taxpayers regarding poor internet connectivity in remote areas. We make sure such issues are resolved immediately.
Q3. What was the volume of central tax collection in a year in pre-GST and post-GST Bihar?
A sum of Rs 2,598 was collected as central taxes in Bihar in 2016-17 fiscal; that is, minus excise duty on petroleum products. It went up to Rs 4,503 crore in 2017-18. This growth was primarily due to the GST.
Q4. Has post-GST Bihar seen a growth in the number of commercial taxpayers? What is the return filing scenario like?
The GST is a trust-based, self-enforcing tax collection mechanism. Its implementation has definitely helped expand the taxpayer base in Bihar. Around 1,81,498 new taxpayers have registered themselves across the state till date. We are optimistic about revenue buoyancy because of expansion of the tax net as well as better tax compliance.
At present, 63% of the taxpayers file regular returns. The defaulters are sent reminders and notices. At least 18,913 notices have been issued to such defaulters.
Q5. Hoteliers and restaurateurs, however, claim that their business has been hit…
Like every other sector, the hospitality industry was liable to pay multiple taxes, including luxury tax and service tax, among others, even under the previous VAT regime.
Q6. Will petrol and diesel be brought under the GST ambit?
Such a proposal is under the consideration of the GST Council. Once consensus is evolved, petrol and diesel may be brought under the GST regime.
Q7. When will rationalization of items be done?
Fine-tuning the GST is an ongoing process. Naturally, the rationalization of items in different slabs will be considered by the GST administration.
Q8. How much is the possibility of merging the 12% and 18% tax rates to a new slab?
At present, most of the items are in the 18% tax slab. Few luxury items like washing machine and airconditioners as well as sin goods such as tobacco are taxed at the rate of 28%. Based on special needs, changes in the tax rates cannot be ruled out.