Centre caps maximum GST cess rate on pan masala, tobacco

It has linked it to the retail sale price of the products; the cap was brought in as part of the amendment to the Finance Bill 2023

March 26, 2023 11:55 am | Updated 08:46 pm IST - New Delhi

Image for representation purpose only.

Image for representation purpose only. | Photo Credit: R. RAGU

The Union government has capped the maximum rate of GST compensation cess that would be levied on pan masala, cigarettes and other forms of tobacco and linked the highest rate to their retail sale price.

The capping of the cess rate was brought in as part of the amendments to the Finance Bill, 2023, which was passed by the Lok Sabha last Friday.

As per the amendment, the maximum GST compensation cess rate for pan masala will be 51% of the retail sale price per unit. In the current regime, the cess is charged at 135% ad valorem [according to the estimated value of the goods being taxed].

The rate for tobacco has been fixed at ₹4,170 per thousand sticks plus 290% ad valorem or 100% of the retail sale price per unit. So far, the highest rate was ₹4,170 per thousand sticks plus 290% ad valorem.

The cess is levied over and above the highest Goods and Services Tax (GST) rate of 28%.

Changes in schedule-I of GST compensation cess Act, brought in via an amendment in Finance Bill, has capped the maximum cess that can be charged on Pan masala and tobacco products.

Tax experts, however, said to ascertain the exact compensation cess applicable following this change, the GST council will need to issue a notification.

‘Significant shift’

AMRG & Associates Senior Partner Rajat Mohan said the latest amendment in the GST Compensation cess law is an enabler that will permit the GST council to introduce applicable tax rates through a notification.

"This change marks a significant shift in taxation policy for pan masala and tobacco-supplying companies. Though this policy will arrest tax evasion to a great extent in this sector, it still may prove to be a regressive plan from an economic standpoint," Mr. Mohan said.

In February, the GST Council chaired by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and comprising State counterparts, had approved the report of a panel of State Finance Ministers on plugging tax evasion in pan masala and gutkha businesses.

The GoM had recommended that the mechanism for levy of compensation cess on pan masala and chewing tobacco be changed from ad valorem to a specific rate-based levy to boost the first stage collection of the revenue.

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