The Finance Ministry on Wednesday maintained that the net burden of indirect taxes on the people would come down by 25-30 per cent when the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) is introduced from April 1, 2010, as originally scheduled, or “as soon as possible”.

Speaking at a conference on ‘GST -- Roadmap to 2010’ organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) here, Revenue Secretary P. V. Bhide said: “Distortions in the indirect tax system will be fully removed and addressed after the GST is put in place... [the] burden on tax payers will be reduced by at least between 25-30 per cent and the new system will ensure complete transparency to ensure smooth tax compliance.”

Mr. Bhide disclosed that real estate would also be brought under the GST net and discussions in this regard between the Centre and the States were almost conclusive. The draft legislation on GST, he said, had been referred to legal experts and would be finalised shortly “to enable the government to achieve target of implementation of Goods and Services Tax as has been promised by April, 1, 2010, or as soon as possible.”

To a query by Assocham President Swati Piramal, Mr. Bhide admitted that there were divergent views expressed by the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers and the Thirteenth Finance Commission (TFC) on certain issues relating to GST, but noted that these were on the verge of finding a solution.

As per the implementation programme, the government has plans to introduce the GST regime from the new fiscal to replace excise duty and service tax at the Central level and the VAT (value added tax) at the State level, apart from others levies such as cess, surcharges and local taxes as currently applicable on good and services. However, a task force of the TFC has suggested a delay in its implementation by six months to October 1, 2010.

Explaining the benefits of the new tax regime when rolled out, the Revenue Secretary said: “There are some invisible advantages of the GST that also need to be factored in. Presently, the domestic industry is subject to a variety of indirect taxes on its output. As the rates of tax and their nature vary from State to State, it becomes impossible to apply these taxes fully to competing products that enter the domestic stream through imports in a WTO compatible manner. Special additional duty of four per cent currently applicable to import of goods does not fully counterbalance all domestic taxes such as CST, VAT and others as rates of tax on a given product vary from State to State.”

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