June is significant for World Environment Day, Water Day, Music Day and so on. But this time it is GST all the way. Nothing can be more transformational than this single biggest Nation-wide Tax Roll-out that is set to impact the chaiwallah (Tea Vendor) on the road to the billionaire business tycoon in private jets. Ironically it required a Chaiwallah to take kadak (strong) decisions and actions to usher in GST and change the flavours of business ! No prizes for guessing who this Kadak Chaiwallah is ☺
At the stroke of midnight today, Excise, Sales tax, VAT, Octroi and several other indirect taxes will die a legislative death to resurrect in a new avatar as GST. When the whole world sleeps (this is a misnomer in today’s world when technology doesn’t allow us to sleep at all !) India will awaken to a new reform as the Government rolls out the red carpet in a celebratory style for the new STAR – GST !!
GST or no GST. Look at the Night Queen, the lovely white Brahma Kamalas from our garden that adorn our banner this time. They bloom and open to the fullest at midnight, bouncing softly in the gentle breeze, lighting up the darkness around, oblivious of whether there are people around to appreciate or not. They perform on select nights quietly with no expectation. For a change they have the GST bloom for company this time !
Times are changing – fast and furious. Old Guards are giving way to New Sentinels in new areas. FIPB is out. GSTN is in. FIPB, one of the last relics of the 1991 reforms is finally put to rest. GSTN (Goods and Service Tax Network), the backbone of the yet-to-be-born GST Act is firmly established and active. Set up in the Information Age, GSTN is a millennial baby aiming to provide trusted and efficient technology services for a smooth GST regime. Government must be lauded for all the right moves and preparations. But they must also be denounced for the hurried manner in which GST is being rolled out. For the multiple tax rates and confusing slabs for the same services. For prescribing 4 taxes (Central GST, State GST, Interstate GST & Union Territory GST) under the One Nation-One Tax Scheme. For some of the State Governments yet to pass the legislation. For continuing some of the absurdities of VAT and Service Tax. For a dealer requiring registration in multiple states. For missing an opportunity to usher in a simplified tax. I am not a tax expert but after attending a 3 day clause by clause GST discussion seminar last week, this is the impression I carry.
No doubt GST is path-breaking. Transformational. Reformative et al. But the roll-out slated for 1st July is going to be an uphill task. For a change, Government ‘seems’ better prepared than the private sector and public. Each one of us has lots to understand and change during this implementation. Unlike when VAT was introduced way back in 2003, at least this time, the Government has made its intention very clear that 1st July shall be the D-day. It is working overtime to ensure this. On the contrary, VAT had a false start in 2002 when all of us were prepared and waiting for the announcement on 31st March which didn’t happen. The comparisons, debates and analysis will go on for next couple of years as in the past when Companies Act was suddenly ushered in on 1st April, 2013. Be that as it may, lets move on. Accept the change. Brace ourselves. Adapt and Transform.