Consensus on GST may take time: Pranab Mukherjee

New Delhi: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the Centre is working at a "political level" with states for countrywide roll-out of Goods and Services Tax (GST), but it may take some time to arrive at a consensus on the new indirect tax regime, reports PTI.

"I am hopeful that it would be possible to achieve the success in bringing the consensus though it may take some time," Mr Mukherjee told reporters here.

Once implemented, GST will subsume indirect taxes like excise duty and service tax at the central level and VAT on the state front, besides other local levies.

"At the political level, we are working on it (GST) to evolve the consensus in close cooperation with the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers," Mr Mukherjee said.

The Centre has proposed a three-tier GST structure. As per the proposal, GST will be levied at two rates on goods-a concessional 6% on essential items and 10% for others-while services will attract 8% GST. These will be collected by both the Centre and the states.

The original deadline of 1 April 2010, for roll-out of GST has already been missed and the Centre has said it will make efforts to roll it out from 1 April 2011. However, due to the lack of consensus between the Centre and states on the issue, it is likely this target will also be missed.

The proposal for roll-out of GST, touted as the most significant indirect tax reform since the introduction of state-level VAT, has been hanging fire on account of persisting differences between the Centre and states on the GST Constitution Amendment Bill.

Amendment of the Constitution is required to enable the Centre to impose tax on activities other than manufacturing and for the states to levy service tax, under the GST regime.

In a meeting of state finance ministers and Mr Mukherjee last week, the states had asked the Centre to allow them to levy taxes on 33 services.

Currently, the Centre cannot impose tax beyond manufacturing activities and states do not have the power to levy tax on services.

However, after GST is implemented, both the Centre and the states will have the power to levy taxes on goods and services.


Tax collection to exceed target by Rs37,000 cr during 2010-11

New Delhi: Tax collections during the current fiscal are likely to exceed the budgetary target by about Rs37,000 crore, at Rs7.82 lakh crore, in light of robust growth of the economy, reports PTI.

"The budget target of tax revenue has been revised upward to Rs7.82 lakh crore from Rs7.45 lakh crore for the current fiscal," revenue secretary Sunil Mitra told reporters here today.

While the target for direct tax collection has been raised from Rs4.30 lakh crore to Rs4.46 lakh crore, the indirect tax collection estimate has been hiked from Rs3.15 lakh crore to Rs3.36 lakh crore, he added.

The upward revision in the tax collection target comes in the wake of 8.9% economic growth during the first half of the current fiscal. According to estimates, the economy is likely to expand by about 9% during the current fiscal, as against 7.4% a year ago.

The buoyancy in the indirect tax collection during the current fiscal can also be attributed to partial withdrawal of economic stimulus measures in last year's budget.

In his 2010-11 budget, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee raised excise duty by 2% to 10% as part of a plan to gradually withdraw the incentives given to industry to combat the impact of the global financial meltdown.

While direct taxes include income tax and corporate tax, the indirect taxes levied by the government are excise, customs and service tax.


SC notice to Centre to reveal content of Radia tapes

New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) today sought the Centre's response on a plea for disclosure of the entire contents of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia's conversation with politicians, journalists and corporate tycoons, which were tapped by government authorities, reports PTI.

A bench of justices GS Singhvi and SS Nijjar issued notice to the Centre and adjourned the matter for further hearing on 2nd February.

The court passed the order on a petition filed by civil society, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, seeking disclosure of the entire 5,800 conversations Ms Radia had with different people, including ministers, journalists and corporate honchos, saying that it was in public interest to disclose the contents as it might reveal corruption in different government departments.

The government had taped Ms Radia's telephonic conversation on a complaint to the finance ministry that she had been allegedly indulging in anti-national activities.

The petitioner also pleaded that disclosure of the contents of Ms Radia tapes would be in immense public interest as it might expose the vicious cycle of corruption involving various stakeholders, including politicians, bureaucrats, corporate and business houses and even scribes.

The petitioner asserted that bringing Ms Radia's tapes to the public domain might expose corruption in high places.

In the course of tapping Ms Radia's conversation, the government had also recorded her conversation with industrialist Ratan Tata, who too has moved court seeking its direction to the government to probe leakage of the part of the Radia tapes containing his conversation.

Mr Tata had move the court against leakage of his conversation with Ms Radia, saying that it violated his right to privacy, linked to his Fundamental Right of Life with dignity.

"Petitioner (Mr Tata) is seriously concerned about the lackadaisical attitude of the government on standing by and allowing purloined material of this kind to be freely distributed and published without taking any step to retrieve it or to find out the source of leakage," Mr Tata had said in his affidavit to the apex court, filed in response to the government's reply to his plea for probing the leakage of his talks with Ms Radia.

He had said failure to protect his tapped conversations from being leaked and letting it reach outsiders "was not a matter of many great moments in law".

Mr Tata pointed out that the Centre's affidavit to the apex court "gives the impression that it is the perception of the government that while protecting such wiretap material is required by the rules, the failure to safeguard such material leaking out and reaching the hands of outsiders does not warrant any step on the part of the government to retrieve it" or to probe as to how the leak occurred.

Mr Tata has also expressed reservations over the growing practise of intercepting telephonic conversation of individuals to probe cases involving violation of tax laws while the provision was originally used only to investigate serious offences involving the security of the state.


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