Vendors wait for customers at wholesale stalls selling fabric near Manish Market in Mumbai.(Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Ready For GST Rollout, Says CBEC Chairman Vanaja Sarna

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), the apex body for indirect taxes in India, is all set to facilitate a smooth transition into the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, Chairman Vanaja Sarna told BloombergQuint.

The government is ready to lend its ears to reasonable issues raised by states and industries after the rollout as well, she said in the interview.

Edited excerpts:

What are the concerns raised by the Centre and states and how are they being addressed?

There are a lot of concerns because it (GST) is a big reform. I think some of them are related to rates, which we have already received and whatever is genuinely a concern will be looked at subsequently. There have been concerns about filing returns, about being system-ready. Most of the big industries are really not affected. But there are concerns for the smaller ones. But regarding this push-back in terms of filing of your returns, we have given them some leveraging time, and by the time they actually have to file the complete returns, they would be ready.

Jammu & Kashmir has not passed its State GST Bill. What is the hurdle and what will be the repercussions?

I think the repercussions will be basically for the state itself. I am quite sure that they will be coming on board shortly.

Anti-profiteering mechanism seems to be creating some sort of panic across industries. What will be your message to comfort them?

The provision is there in the law itself...You may be aware that earlier also the finance minister has specifically said the intention is to use it as a deterrent.. So we are really hoping that we don’t have to use it and people abide by the fact that if there is a reduction in duty structure, then the benefit must be passed on to the consumer. If there is a benefit due to input tax credit, which is going to be available because we are removing the cascading impact in so many cases, that benefit should go to the consumer.

Anti-profiteering mechanism is a three-step process. There is a standing committee and there is a national anti-profiteering authority. When will the members of these two committees be appointed?

A committee has been put in place to select people for that authority. That is the first step and is actually being started now. Things would move pretty fast and hopefully there would be something in place quite soon. We will take a couple of weeks’ time to put it together.

The textile industry has raised some reservations and protesting against the rates that have been finalised. Is there any scope to revise the rates?

As far as the textile sector is concerned, the protests are because this is the first time they are coming to taxation. But one has to remember that there will be the benefit of input tax credit (ITC) as well. So all the different stages from the yarn to the textile itself, goes through so many processes and stages on which they will get the benefit of ITC. I am not saying (their reservations) may be unfounded; if there are enough justifications, we will always take a relook.

Are there any rate revisions expected now on any commodity?

It is rather late now, we are already on the 30th and the notifications for the rates have already been issued and at the moment. We should look for the rollout and we have got a lot of representations which will keep coming in and if there is any serious justification, I am sure it would be looked at by the Council.

GST gets rolled out today. Does your responsibility increase now? What would it mean for CBEC?

CBEC has been waiting for the moment and we are all ready. We have to bite the bullet from now, starting from midnight. Initially, for us, the first area would be customs, where Integrated GST will be billed. So this will literally be rolled out from midnight onward. But other than that, I think all the officers have been well trained, everything is in the position that they have to be, and a lot of effort has gone into providing the maximum support for the assessees.

So right down to the last thing, which is the range level, we have converted them to GST Sewa numbers, wherever possible between toll free numbers, email, Twitter, advertisements, you may have seen many in the last two to three days.

The purpose now is to roll out and ensure a smooth rollout and give all possible assistance to assessees.