Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an indirect tax applicable throughout India which replaced multiple cascading taxes levied by the central and state governments. It was introduced as The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act 2017, following the passage of Constitution 122nd Amendment Bill. The GST is governed by a GST Council and its Chairman is the Finance Minister of India. Under GST, goods and services are taxed at the following rates, 0%, 5%, 12% and 18%. There is a special rate of 0.25% on rough precious and semi-precious stones and 3% on gold. In addition a cess of 15% or other rates on top of 28% GST applies on few items like aerated drinks, luxury cars and tobacco products.
Touted by the government to be India’s biggest tax reform in 70 years of independence, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was finally launched on the midnight of 30 June 2017, though the process of forming the legislation took 17 years (since 2000 when it was first proposed). The launch was marked by a historic midnight (30 June – 1 July 2017) session of both the houses of parliament convened at the Central Hall of the Parliament, but which was immediately boycotted by the opposition by staging a walk out to show their disapproval of the same.
Members of the Congress boycotted the GST launch altogether. They were joined by members of the Trinamool Congress, Communist Parties of India and the DMK, who reportedly found virtually no difference between the existing taxation system, and therefore claimed that the government was trying to merely rebrand the current taxation system but made it worse for common people by increasing existing rates on common items and reducing rates on luxury items. Many critics pointed out that the GST would increase costs of daily goods and affect many Indians adversely, especially the middle, lower middle and poorer classes GST was initially proposed to replace a slew of indirect taxes with a unified tax and was therefore set to dramatically reshape the country’s 2 trillion dollar economy. However, it has been met with sharp criticism from various fronts due to the increased costs and troubles that it will cause to common citizens. The rate of GST in India is between double to four times that levied in other countries like Singapore.