Tax Reforms

With high GST on online games, death by taxes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tax reforms in news

Mains level: Tax on online gaming, advantages and impact on industry, Need for balanced approach


What’s the news?

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council recently decided to impose the top 28% slab on online gaming, horse racing, and casinos.
  • The government anticipates earning an additional Rs 20,000 crore per annum.

Nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes.” -Benjamin Franklin

Central Idea

  • The recent decision of the 50th GST Council to impose a staggering 28% tax on the total amount involved in online games has sparked concerns over the survival of an entire industry that employs a substantial workforce.

The Distinction between Games of Skill and Games of Chance

  • For more than 150 years, the legal system has distinguished between games of skill and games of chance.
  • While games of chance rely solely on luck and are akin to gambling, games of skill involve a level of competence, where the outcome is determined by the players’ abilities.
  • The Public Gambling Act of 1867 recognizes games of skill as distinct from gambling, offering a legal shield to the former.

What is the Rationale Behind Levying a 28% Tax on Online Gaming?

  • Revenue Generation: The primary objective is to generate additional revenue for the exchequer by taxing the booming online gaming industry, which has witnessed significant growth and popularity.
  • Consistency in the Tax System: Applying a 28% GST on online gaming activities is aimed at ensuring equal treatment of various forms of entertainment and recreational activities in the tax system.
  • Regulatory Control: The imposition of a higher tax rate may serve as a means of regulatory control over the online gaming industry, potentially influencing consumer behavior and promoting responsible gaming practices.
  • Foreign Investment Considerations: Setting a tax rate comparable to global standards may attract foreign investments in the online gaming sector while ensuring tax compliance within the industry.
  • Addressing Social Concerns: The government aims to address concerns related to excessive gaming and potential social issues by imposing a higher tax rate.
  • Boosting Government Revenues: The estimated annual revenue boost of Rs 20,000 crore highlights the government’s view of the online gaming industry as a lucrative source of tax collection.

Impact of 28% GST on the Online Gaming Industry?

  • Financial Burden on Players: The 28% GST on the entire amount pooled in online games may result in a higher financial burden on players, especially for those who do not win or participate frequently. This could discourage some players from engaging in online gaming activities.
  • Viability of the Industry: The higher tax rate may impact the industry’s viability, particularly for gaming companies and startups. It could lead to reduced revenues for the companies, affecting their ability to invest in game development and innovation.
  • Competitiveness: The increased tax rate may make Indian gaming platforms less competitive compared to international counterparts that might not be subject to such high taxation. This could lead to players shifting to offshore gaming platforms, impacting the domestic industry.
  • Employment in the Sector: The online gaming industry in India is a significant employer, providing direct and indirect employment to thousands of people. The higher tax rate may put financial strain on companies, leading to potential job losses and reduced opportunities for growth in the sector.
  • Impact on Foreign Investments: The higher tax rate could deter foreign investments in the Indian gaming industry, as investors may consider the tax burden and its potential effects on returns.
  • Consumer Behavior: The higher GST rate might alter consumer behavior, with some players reducing their spending on online games or looking for alternative sources of entertainment.
  • Potential Black Market: A high tax rate might incentivize some players to resort to black market or unregulated platforms to avoid the tax burden, leading to potential illegal activities and revenue losses for the government.
  • Regulatory Challenges: The implementation of a 28% GST on online gaming might pose regulatory challenges for both gaming companies and the government, especially in ensuring compliance and proper tax collection.
  • Innovation and Investment in the Sector: The higher tax rate may impact investments in research and development, innovation, and new game development within the industry.
  • Growth of E-sports: The higher tax burden on gaming companies may affect the growth of e-sports and competitive gaming in India, as organizers and sponsors may face increased financial pressures

Way Forward: The Need for Balanced Taxation

  • Engage Stakeholders: The government should engage in meaningful discussions with industry stakeholders, including gaming companies, players, and experts, to understand the unique challenges and opportunities in the sector.
  • Review Taxation Structure: Consider revisiting the current tax structure and exploring alternatives such as focusing on service fees rather than taxing the entire pooled amount. Aligning with global practices can lead to more sustainable and equitable taxation.
  • Promote Responsible Gaming: Allocate a portion of tax revenue to promote responsible gaming practices, player protection, and awareness programs to address potential social concerns.
  • Encourage Domestic Investment: Provide incentives and tax breaks to encourage domestic gaming companies to invest in research, development, and innovation, fostering the growth of the industry.
  • Support E-sports: Recognize the potential of e-sports and competitive gaming, and offer tax incentives to organizers and sponsors of e-sports’ events to stimulate the growth of the e-sport’s ecosystem.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Regularly monitor the impact of taxation policies on the industry, employment, and overall revenue collection. Adjust the policies as necessary to maintain a balanced approach.
  • International Collaboration: Collaborate with other countries and learn from their experiences in gaming taxation to refine and implement effective policies.


  • The decision to impose a 28% GST on the entire amount pooled in online games could be catastrophic for the industry. A more balanced approach, considering the industry’s employment potential and overall economic impact, is essential. By focusing on reasonable taxation and fostering growth, policymakers can ensure the survival and prosperity of the online gaming industry while still collecting revenue for the government’s coffers.

Also read:

Goods and Services Tax (GST)


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