The government will not roll back 1% excise duty on gold jewellery, finance minister Arun Jaitley has said of the decision that prompted jewellers to go strike for more than a month.
Rejecting opposition parties’ demand, the minister said on Thursday the levy, proposed in the budget, was only applicable on jewellers with an annual turnover of more than Rs 12 crore and not on small traders and artisans.
“Tax will have to be paid… but we will ensure that there is no harassment of jewellers,” Jaitley said replying to a discussion on the finance bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha. Parties including the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress had opposed the move, citing harassment of artisans because of the levy.
Jewellery, which could be classified as a luxury item, couldn’t be kept out of the ambit of excise duty as the country was moving towards the goods and services tax, the minister said.
India’s most ambitious tax reform, the GST will subsume all indirect taxes and create one national market.
Taking on the Congress, Jaitley said if the party was upset about the duty, it should bring down the value-added tax on jewellery in Kerala, where it was in power, from 5% to 1% as was in other states.
“It is quite disappointing… however we are trying to convince the industry to resolve the matter, but the government on its part needs to co-operate with the industry,” Ashok Minawala of All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation said.
The jewellers called off the strike last month following the government’s assurance that excise officials won’t bother them.
Every year, India imports around 1,000 tonnes of gold, which impacts the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
The minister also told the House that 33 tax officers were compulsorily retired and 72 dismissed in keeping with the Modi government’s perform or perish mantra.