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GST: Anti-profiteering body gets cabinet nod to ensure consumers get benefits

If any consumer feels that the benefit of GST rate cut is not being passed on then he can complain to National Anti-profiteering Authority.

business Updated: Nov 17, 2017 07:39 IST
Asit Ranjan Mishra
Asit Ranjan Mishra
Livemint, New Delhi
GST,Anti-Profiteering Authority,Union Cabinet
A bill is clumped together with others at a restaurant with the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) added to it. (AP File Photo)

A day after reduced goods and services tax (GST) rates on more than 200 items, including chocolates, shampoo and restaurant bills kicked in, the union Cabinet chaired by prime minister Narendra Modi on Thursday approved the establishment of a powerful national body to ensure that benefits of such tariff cuts are passed on to consumers.

Named the National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA), the body will provide an institutional mechanism to ensure that the full benefits of input tax credits and reduced GST rates on supply of goods or services flow to consumers. This institutional framework comprises the NAA, a Standing Committee, Screening Committees in every state and the Directorate General of Safeguards in the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC).

Although consumer-friendly, some experts have pointed to the fact that this body could mean more government, not less, and that it could result in the harassment of businesses in some cases. Still, the anti-profiteering body is a temporary one, part of the transitory phase as India moves to a unified tax regime. The body will have a life of two years.

Read more: GST rate on restaurants slashed to 5%: Will eating out get cheaper?

Affected consumers who feel the benefit of commensurate reduction in prices is not being passed on when they purchase any goods or services may apply for relief to the Screening Committee in the particular state. However, in case the incident of profiteering relates to an item of mass impact with ‘All-India’ ramification, the application may be directly made to the Standing Committee.

After forming a prima facie view that there is an element of profiteering, the Standing Committee shall refer the matter for detailed investigation to the Director General of Safeguards, CBEC, which will report its findings to the NAA.

If the NAA confirms there is a necessity to apply anti-profiteering measures, it will step in and ask businesses that have not passed on full benefits of a reduced tax burden to consumers to refund it with interest. If the undue benefit cannot be passed on to the recipient, it can be ordered to be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund. In rare cases, a profiteering business could lose its GST registration too.

The NAA will be headed by a senior officer of the level of secretary to the central government with four technical members from the centre and states. A selection panel led by cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha has already started consultation with states to finalise the members of the panel.

Read more: Exporters can manually file GST refund claims: CBEC

The finance ministry said this is “one more measure aimed at reassuring consumers that government is fully committed to take all possible steps to ensure the benefits of implementation of GST in terms of lower prices of the goods and services reach them.”

In the 23rd GST Council meeting held in Guwahati last week, the government decided to make major tax cuts, by shifting 177 items from the highest slab of 28% to the 18% slab including wrist watches, non-alcoholic beverages and shaving cream. It also decided to lower the tax rate on 54 other items that includes diabetic food, refined sugar and bamboo furniture.

The top tax rate of 28% is now restricted to luxury and demerit goods like pan masala, aerated water and beverages, cigars and cigarettes, tobacco products, cement, paints, perfumes, air-conditioners, dish washing machines, washing machines, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, cars and two-wheelers, and aircraft and yachts.

Aditya Singhania, Deputy General Manager, GST at Taxmann said the provisions of penalty for making excessive profiteering and even cancellation of registration of such taxpayers will certainly help in achieving the objective of establishing this body. “The measure will certainly keep a check on inflation as it will help in monitoring the prices of the products for which rate cuts have been made,” he added.

In another move, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) allowed removal of prohibition on export of all types of pulses to ensure that “farmers have greater choice in marketing their produce and in getting better remuneration for their produce”.

In 2016-17, Indian farmers produced 23 million tons of pulses and is the highest ever till date. The Government has procured 20 lakh tons of pulses by ensuring minimum support price or market rates, whichever is higher, directly from the farmers and this has been the highest ever procurement of pulses.

Mayank Aggarwal also contributed to this story.

First Published: Nov 16, 2017 17:40 IST