Finance ministry hopeful of GST roll-out on April 1

Business Standard By Indivjal Dhasmana December 15, 2016. 02:00 IST

Even as the Centre and states are yet to reach an agreement over the prickly issue of administrative turf over assessees.

The Finance ministry raised its pitch over implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) from April 1, 2017 even as the Centre and states are yet to reach an agreement over the prickly issue of administrative turf over assessees and only two days are left for the winter session of Parliament to be over.

Barely a week before the next meeting of GST Council on December 22 and 23, the ministry in tweets and later through a press statement state said: “Members of GST Council are participating in meetings with a very positive attitude and are working towards roll-out of GST as per the deadline.”

It said the GST Council has already taken a number of important decisions, paving way for the roll-out of GST with effect from April 1, 2017.

The ministry said discussions in the GST Council were very cordial and all decisions consensus, hinting that decision on the contentious issue of administrative control over assessees may also be taken with all on board unlike some quarters suggesting that the Council might resort to voting.

The press statement said compared to the time taken in arriving at a consensus on the Constitutional Amendment Bill for GST, the subsequent events after the passing of the Bill indicate that the Union government and states have done well in taking all necessary steps for GST implementation.

It said the GST Council in its first meeting decided that GST would be rolled out by April 1, 2017. Accordingly, various timelines had been decided for various aspects of implementation of GST such as recommendation of the Model GST Laws by the GST Council and its passage by Parliament and state legislatures; the development of front-end information technology modules on the common GST portal and the back-end IT systems; testing and integration of GST front-end and back-end IT systems of all stakeholders; training of both Central and state tax officials; sensitisation of the trade, industry and consumers.

As many as 99 Sections the model GST law have already been considered by the Council and remaining sections will be discussed in the next meeting of the Council scheduled for December 22 and 23.

The last meeting of the Council on Sunday did not take up the issue of administrative turf, which led to an impression that the April 1, 2017 roll-out target is impossible to achieve.

As the winter session of Parliament comes to an end on Friday, the GST Bills could only come up in the Budget session and that too when there is an agreement on administrative control.

Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac had said the Centre's move on withdrawal of high-value currency notes eroded the trust of states. And, that it affected the cooperative sector in Kerala. “Do you think I would come here to shake hands on GST?” he had told reporters.

However, Jaitley had said, “Our target is April 1 and we stand by it. We do not have the luxury of time as April 1 is the first possible day when GST can be implemented and the last possible day is September 16 (2017). So, the discretion for the roll-out is only five months and 16 days.”

The Centre will have to pass central GST, integrated GST and Compensation Bills in Parliament for the roll-out, while states are required to pass respective state GST Bills in their respective assemblies.

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