The Union Cabinet today approved the setting up of a National Anti-profiteering Authority under the Goods and Services Tax, as it seeks to ensure that consumers get the benefit of reduced prices under the new indirect tax regime.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that currently there are only 50 items which attract the highest tax of 28 percent under the GST regime and the rates on many items have been cut to 5 percent as well.
“The National Anti-Profiteering Authority is an assurance to consumers of India. If any consumer feels that the benefit of tax rate cut is not being passed on, then he can complaint to the authority,” Prasad told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.
This reflects the government’s full commitment to take all possible steps to ensure that the benefits of GST implementation are being transferred to the common man, the minister said.
The approval by the Cabinet paves way for immediate establishment of the apex body, which is mandated to ensure that the benefits of GST rate reduction is passed on to consumers.
The GST Council, chaired by the Union Finance Minister, comprising state counterparts, had last week decided to slash tax rates of over 200 items in the GST regime as well as lowered tax rates on AC and non-AC restaurants to 5 percent.
The Council had earlier approved the setting up of a five- member National Anti-Profiteering Authority to enable consumers to file complaint in case price reduction is not passed on.
A five-member committee, headed by Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha, comprising Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, CBEC Chairman Vanaja Sarna and chief secretaries from two states, has been entrusted to finalise the chairman and members of the authority.
The authority will have a sunset date of two years from the date on which the chairman assumes charge. The chairman and the four members of the authority have to be less than 62 years.
As per the structure of the anti-profiteering mechanism in the GST regime, complaints of local nature will be first sent to the state-level ‘screening committee’, while those of national level will be marked for the ‘Standing Committee.’
If the complaints have merit, the respective committees would refer the cases for further investigation to the Directorate General of Safeguards. The DG Safeguards would generally take about three months to complete the investigation and send the report to the anti-profiteering authority.
If the authority finds that a company has not passed on GST benefits, it will either direct the entity to pass on the benefits to consumers or if the beneficiary cannot be identified, it will ask the company to transfer the amount to the ‘consumer welfare fund’ within a specified timeline.
The authority will have the power to cancel registration of any entity or business if it fails to pass on to consumers the benefit of lower taxes under the GST regime, but it would probably be the last step against any violator.
According to the anti-profiteering rules, the authority will suggest return of the undue profit earned from not passing on the reduction in incidence of tax to consumers along with an 18 percent interest, and also impose penalty.