India’s anti-profiteering framework may remain in place for another two years as the country eyes more changes to the goods and services tax (GST) structure. Aimed at protecting consumer interest under GST, it was initially meant to be in place for two years.
Discussions have begun and a decision is expected soon after a new government is in place at the Centre, a senior official aware of the development told ET. At the top of the watchdog framework is the National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA).
“There is a thinking that the National Anti-profiteering Authority’s tenure be extended,” the official said, adding that there are a number of cases that need to be resolved. Besides, another official said, complaints keep pouring in and need to be decided. Votes in the ongoing general election will be counted on May 23.
Key sectors such as petroleum are still outside GST and more changes are expected in the rate structure, making the NAA’s role critical. GST now has four slabs — 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% — and it’s widely expected that middle two may be merged to reduce complexity.
The NAA has passed orders against several companies following profiteering complaints. These include Hindustan Unilever for profiteering estimated at Rs 535 crore, Domino’s franchisee Jubilant FoodWorks (Rs 41.42 crore), Abbott Healthcare (Rs 96 lakh) and McDonald’s franchisee Hardcastle Restaurants (Rs 7.49 crore).
The authority needs to have clear guidelines on determining profiteering, said Pratik Jain, national leader, indirect taxes, PwC. “It seems likely that the authority will get an extension, not only because of a significant number of pending cases but also in view of possible rate rationalisation and expansion of the GST net in the next year or so,” Jain said.
The system was meant to shield consumers against any sudden spike in prices after GST was rolled out in July 2017 and to ensure that companies passed on savings from lower taxes to buyers.
India Adopted 3-tier Structure
Several countries that implemented GST had faced a spike in inflation soon after doing so. India had looked at the mechanisms that Malaysia and Australia had put in place as part of their GST framework.
The Union Cabinet approved constitution of the NAA on November 16, 2017.
India adopted a three-tier structure for the investigation of anti-profiteering complaints from consumers. At the first level are state-level screening committees and a standing committee at the national level to examine complaints. These committees refer complaints to the director general of safeguards, mandated to conduct a thorough investigation by seeking information from the companies concerned. The third and final level is the National Anti-profiteering Authority that examines the investigation report and hears from the company and the complainant before pronouncing a final decision.
Source : Economic Times