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'We can't roll out GST in its current form': West Bengal tells Centre

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 30 May 2017, 22:32 IST

There is uncertainty in the West Bengal government as it has said that it would not be ready to roll out the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in its current form unless the Centre comes to a consensus regarding the current rate of taxation and exemption of certain essential goods.

A meeting of the GST Council is scheduled on 3 June where state finance minister Amit Mitra, who is also the chairman of the Empowered Committee of GST, will again raise these issues.

Apparently the main point of contention is the current rate of taxation on goods like books (not text books ), leather, entertainment tax and tax on the sale of electricity.

GST is scheduled to roll out across the country from July1.

Mitra on Tuesday asked Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley whether industry is at all ready to accept GST.

Mitra said "We will again write to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to reduce the tax on certain items like books (excluding textbooks) leather and entertainment tax, where Centre has decided to keep tax limit from 26-28%. If such a huge tax limit is imposed then it will be difficult for taxpayers, therefore we want to reduce the tax limit”.

“While Center has said that there will be dual taxation on certain companies whose annual turnover is up to Rs 1.5 crore, West Bengal government is not in favour of dual taxation on such companies. We will urge them to remove this. We have also urged the Centre to exempt taxes on small and medium scale enterprises whose yearly turnover is 20 lakh. Centre has already accepted the proposal,” he added..

According to Mitra, the Centre is hurriedly rolling out GST without finalising all the rules or taking into account the ground realities.

Senior officials of the state government said that out of 17 items that include both services and goods, Centre has come to a consensus with state government regarding a few items. But there are still disagreements regarding many essential items.

“We want tax to be exempted from wigs (both natural and processed ), footwear and other essential goods and services like food and transportation for students. We also want tax exemption for single screen theatres.

“Although Centre is yet to come to a consensus we will continue to raise our concerns until we get a positive response from them,” Mitra said.

A senior official of the state government said that Centre has already accepted a few of the state's requests and exempted taxes on food grains, healthcare, raw vegetables, paneer , handloom products, sindoor, bindi and unprocessed tea.

“We want Center to exempt tax on newspapers and newspaper prints if GST is rolled out in India.”added Mitra.

BJP has accused the Trinamool Congress of acting in a cussed manner.

Dilip Ghosh, state BJP president said “If a majority of the states have accepted the proposals of the GST Council, West Bengal should follow suit otherwise there will be a constitutional crisis. Let’s see what is finalised in the the 3 June meeting of the GST Council.”

First published: 30 May 2017, 22:32 IST