Natural gas and real estate may come under GST net, says FM Arun Jaitley

Business Standard By Arup Roychoudhury & Abhishek Waghmare February 6, 2018 01:28 IST

'At some stage, we will try for petrol and diesel and potable alcohol,' said the Finance Minister

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and FICCI President Rashesh C Shah (first from right) meet industrialists during the industry body's executive meeting in New Delhi. Photo: Dalip Kumar

Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said natural gas and real estate, which are currently exempt from the goods and services tax (GST), could be brought under its purview first, followed by petrol and diesel and potable alcohol at a later date.

Speaking at an event organised by industry body FICCI, Jaitley also said there would be some two-or three anti-evasion measures put in place with regard to the GST, to ensure better compliance.

“So far the mood of most of the states is not in favour of including petrol and diesel. But I’m sure as the GST experience moves on, natural gas and real estate (which includes land)… these are areas which are to be brought in and then probably at some stage we will try for petrol and diesel and potable alcohol,” Jaitley said.

These four items, along with electricity, are currently out of the ambit of GST, and both the Centre and states continue to levy duties on them since they are big revenue earners. Jaitley also said that as the e-way bill system matures and the anti-evasion measures are put in place, the compliance level on GST will show automatic improvement. “With the anti-evasion measures in place I think collections will improve. And therefore sticking to the fiscal deficit targets in the coming year would be much easier than what it was in the current year.” Commenting on the criticism following the budget, especially the new flagship National Health Protection Scheme, the finance minister said: “Making the budget is a tough exercise. However, commenting on the budget is quite simple.

You are expected to spend more, tax less, and yet maintain fiscal prudence.” The new health scheme will cover over 100 million poor and vulnerable families (around 500 million beneficiaries), providing coverage of up to Rs 500,000 per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.

The initial allocation of the scheme, however, has only been Rs 20 billion, raising concerns about its viability and implementation. Admitting that the scheme was an ambitious one, Jaitley said the NITI Aayog and the health ministry will come up with workable ideas to implement it.

Earlier during the same event, senior finance ministry officials spoke on the budget and fielded questions from industry representatives. Department of investment and public asset management (DIPAM) secretary Neeraj Gupta said the Centre is working on a debt exchange-traded fund to help state-owned companies, which are currently in the process of raising almost Rs 3 trillion from the bond market, bring down the cost of borrowing.

“We are looking more and more towards investment. Retail, high net-worth individuals, pension funds. So a fund of funds concept has come in this budget whereby if you are a non-demat account holder for your investor, you can have access to any equity ETF through the new route,” Gupta said.

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