Panipat (Haryana), July 1: The BJP-led NDA government has imposed the highest-ever GST rate in the world, while the UPA had mooted a cap of 18 per cent for the new indirect tax regime, senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said on Saturday.
The current Goods and Services Tax (GST) is cumbersome with multi-tier tax structure of 5, 12, 18, 28 per cent, which with cess can touch 43 per cent, Surjewala said adding this will hit the livelihood of shopkeepers, traders, micro and small businesses, farmers and common man of the country.
"In fact, the BJP government has imposed the highest-ever GST rate in the world unlike the Congress-UPA, which had put a cap of 18 per cent," the Congress spokesperson said addressing a gathering of traders in this textile hub.
Surjewala was addressing a 'Traders Sammelan' under the aegis of 'Vyapar Bachao-Dukandar Bachao' in Panipat to protest on the first day of implementation of the GST in the country.
Addressing the gathering, Surjewala said, "The GST in current form will be a body blow to the farmers, textile sector, small and medium businesses on one hand and will lead to run away inflation for all goods of mass consumption for the common man on the other."
He said, "UPA's GST was simple, transparent and uncomplicated taxation on goods and services, while BJP's GST is a complicated maze of multi-tier tax structure requiring 37 returns to be filed by every taxpayer per year."
"In case, a taxpayer is doing business in all 36 states/UTs, it will be 1,332 returns, which is shocking," he said.
Touching upon massive taxation for goods of mass consumption, Surjewala while highlighting the GST provision, questioned BJP government's motive of taxing all aspects of 'roti, kapda and makaan' in an "excessive fashion". Citing an example, Surjewala asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as to what is the justification for "excessive taxation of daily use items" like shampoos, deodrant (28 per cent), ACs/TVs/washing machines (28 pc, furniture (28 pc), computers/Multi-functional printers (28 pc) and small cars (28 pc).
Besides, movie tickets above Rs 100 (28 pc), food and beverages (18 pc), payments through credit cards and all banking services (18 pc), educational institutes and hospitals (18 pc), sanitary napkins for women (12 pc), dialysis/blood test/X-ray/ultrasound etc. (12 pc to 18 pc), clothes/footwear above Rs 1000/- (12 pc), tea/coffee/butter/biscuit/ curd/sweets/juices (12 pc to 28 pc) and wheel chairs for physically challenged (5 pc), Surjewala said.
Surjewala also questioned the "arbitrariness" in fixing certain rates.
"Does it make sense to tax mineral water at 18 per cent even when caviar and prawns are taxed at 12 per cent or even when exotic imported fruits and vegetables are taxed at 0 per cent," he asked.
"Similarly, what is the justification for taxing almonds and dry fruits at 12 per cent and cashew nuts at 5 per cent," he questioned. Surjewala said that textile sector is the second biggest job generator after agriculture.
"They are the hardest hit by distorted duty structure of GST, which can wipe out the living subsistence of millions of micro, small and medium manufacturers, traders, cloth merchants and shopkeepers," he said.
Surjewala particularly questioned tax on man-made fiber and yarn, dyeing and printing and embroidery at 18 per cent, while rate of the end product, that is fabric is only 5 per cent. Touching upon the agriculture sector, Surjewala said India's farmer is already reeling under the lack of appropriate MSP and a cycle of indebtedness.
"Current GST seeks to further tax the farmer and agriculture sector," Surjewala claimed.
He also said that 18 per cent GST has been imposed on construction of cold storage and warehouses for storing agriculture produce and even mechanised food grains handling system, further taxing the agriculture sector.
"It is one more example of Modi government's method of governance: long on talks and short on delivery," he said.