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GST rollout: Cos cut prices, some pause operations to comply with new tax regime

GST rollout: Wholesalers rushed to upgrade software to comply with requirements of the new indirect tax system.

business Updated: Jul 03, 2017 09:12 IST
Mint Correspondents
Mint Correspondents
Livemint, New Delhi
GST rollout,GST,GST rates
A BJP supporter holds a placard during a rally to support implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Mumbai.(Reuters File Photo)

The weekend following the Saturday midnight rollout of goods and services tax (GST) witnessed many companies announcing price cuts and some pausing market operations to update their systems even as wholesalers were seen rushing to upgrade software to comply with requirements of the new indirect tax system.

While the tax reform that seeks to bring in transparency and efficiency was welcomed as positive for India’s sovereign credit profile by rating agency Moody’s Investors Service India Pvt. Ltd, the government actively sought to allay fears of taxpayers and make the transition to the new system easy.

The halt in sales in certain manufactured goods such as cars is expected to normalise over the next couple of days as the supply chain shake-up during the transition gets over.

Some of the complaints among traders over compliance difficulties seemed to be an early sign of the expanding indirect tax base. For the government, a wider tax base will give room to keep tax rates as low as possible.

Over the weekend, Apple cut the retail prices of iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watch models for its consumers in India, while fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company Hindustan Unilever Ltd cut prices of some of its detergents and soaps, extending the benefit of reduced tax under the GST regime to consumers. Two-wheeler maker Hero MotoCorp Ltd slashed prices of its models by ?400-Rs1,800, the company said on Sunday.

Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL) reduced prices of some of the items manufactured on and after July 1. “The goods should reach the market in a few days. For other categories where GST rates are going up, we don’t intend to increase prices,” said Vivek Gambhir, managing director of GCPL.

Big Bazaar, the retail chain run by Kishore Biyani’s Future Group, had announced a sale at reduced price starting midnight of Saturday, when GST was launched, although those were the goods on which higher taxes were paid during the earlier regime. The discounts ranged from 2-22% on select food and grocery items on which the tax burden is lower under GST.

The retailer had segregated all its products according to the GST tax slabs that they were to come under, explained a spokesperson for the Future Group.

Online retailer Amazon India said it has made a successful transition to GST. “We have received encouraging feedback from our sellers over the last two days regarding the changes we introduced to support the transition. We continue to see strong demand from customers post the transition,” an Amazon India spokesperson said.

However, traders at India’s largest wholesale market at Mumbai’s Masjid Bandar were confused and finding it hard to cope with the new tax regime. They were seen rushing to buy laptops and installing software required for filing GST returns.

“The situation is chaotic. People (traders) are asking one another what is to be done. The business has stopped completely,”said Tarun Jain, general secretary, Khadya Tel Vyapari Association Maharashtra and a distributor in South Mumbai. The association’s main concern is that traders don’t have the resources to comply with the IT-driven tax system.

Congress activists protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for implementation of GST, in Kolkata. (PTI Photo)

Some FMCG firms were busy making the switch to the new system and are expected to resume despatch of goods at new prices to distributors by Monday or Tuesday.

Most consumer packaged goods distributors for companies such as HUL and Marico Industries Ltd also kept their trading firms shut over the weekend to update their software. The change in price in a particular region will also depend on the prevailing state and local body taxes.

Regions with low octroi like Bengaluru can expect an increase in prices while Delhi and Mumbai may benefit as they had high octroi which now is abolished. “The real pricing will only be revealed next week,” said Ritesh Ghosal, chief marketing officer, Croma, a consumer durables and electronic appliances retail chain operated by Infiniti Retail Ltd.

GST will be positive for India’s sovereign credit rating as it will lead to higher economic growth and increased tax revenues, Moody’s Investors Service India Pvt Ltd said on Sunday. “Over the medium term, we expect that the GST will contribute to productivity gains and higher GDP growth by improving the ease of doing business, unifying the national market and enhancing India’s attractiveness as a foreign investment destination,” a statement from the agency said citing Moody’s vice-president, sovereign risk group, William Foster. It said GST will support higher government revenue generation through improved tax compliance and administration, both of which will be positive for the country’s credit profile.

(Sapna Agarwal, Sneh Susmit, Anirban Sen and Gireesh Chandra Prasad contributed to the story.)

Published in arrangement with Livemint