New Delhi: Conceding that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in its current form may have flaws, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the country cannot at this stage do away with the legislation since its implementation after being cleared by the state assemblies and the Parliament.
Sitharaman in Pune was interacting with people from industries, chartered accountants, company secretaries and other stakeholders in the financial sector. She was replying to concerns raised by professionals in the taxation industry who said it was "cursing" the government over how the GST had been implemented.
“It may have flaws, it might probably give you difficulties, but I'm sorry, it's the 'kanoon' [law] of the country now," she said.
Billed as the biggest reform in indirect taxation, the GST, which does away with a host of levies from the federal to the local government levels, was implemented in July 2017.
"After a long time, many parties in Parliament and in state assemblies worked together and came up with the Act. I know you are saying this based on your experiences but suddenly we cannot call 'what a goddamn structure it is'," said Sitharaman.
Stating that it has been only two years since the GST was implemented, Sitharaman said she would have wished the new structure was satisfactory from day one. She also said she wants all stakeholders to give some solutions for better compliance.
In a later tweet, the minister said that the participant who had asked the question was deriding the GST and she had simply been responding to him.
Request @ANI to upload the question too, wherein the participant from the audience spoke completely deriding #GST. Had halted him to say that he’s welcome to give suggestions & on his request to meet me with a delegation, gave him 23rd Oct ‘19 even from the dais. @FinMinIndia— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) October 11, 2019
BM Sharma, a member of the Cost Accountants Association, later explained why he said what he said. "I said that the objective of GST was to ease of doing business, reduce tax complexities, rationalise 13 taxes, and reduce litigation and corruption. But the same is not being achieved due to several problems and industries and professionals are complaining now," he said.
As Sharma suggested some solutions, the minister asked him to meet her in Delhi.
At a presser earlier, when asked about the low GST collections, Sitharaman attributed it the difficulties due to weather-related disasters as well as poor compliance.
"Yes, the GST collection in some areas has not been strong enough. Various districts in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand were flooded and we had to postpone filing returns from these areas," she said, adding that the revenue secretary has already formed a committee to identify where the collection has not been adequate.
"We have some reports on how in some cases evasion has happened. The committee will look into how this can be plugged and if there has been any under-invoicing," she said.