From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : GST collection
Mains level : Paper 3- Increased GST collection
There has been a remarkable upswing in GST collections in recent months. Collections touched a record high of Rs 1.67 lakh crore in April.
What are the reasons for increased collection?
- 1] Inflation: First, the sharp rise in inflation has played a significant role.
- Notwithstanding concerns over the unevenness of the economic recovery, in nominal terms, the economy grew by 19.4 per cent in 2021-22 as per the second advance estimates.
- Deflating GST collection suggests that a large part of the recent increase in collections is driven by rising prices.
- 2] Higher imports: Part of the overall increase in collections can be traced to higher imports.
- Higher buoyancy: Even if one is to exclude the revenue accruing from imports, the rise in GST collections has outstripped GDP growth, indicating higher buoyancy.
- 3] Tightening of the rules: In order to improve compliance levels, the GST Council has been tweaking the rules to tighten the system.
- Returns filed have gone up, while the number of non-filers and those who delay filing have fallen.
- Alongside, the administration has also taken steps to tackle the menace of fake invoices by placing restrictions on the quantum of input tax credit that can be used to pay of tax obligations.
- The introduction of e-invoicing has also played a role.
- Until recently, this was being implemented for firms with a turnover of more than Rs 50 crore.
- From April, this process has been extended to firms above Rs 20 crore.
- The incremental gains from bringing smaller firms into its ambit, while consequential, are unlikely to be of the same order.
- 4] Industrial activity: The higher collections in April 2022 seem to be led by increase in industrial activity. This is borne by strong growth in collections in states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Odisha which house lot of industries. Relatively tepid growth in more populous states such as Bihar (-2.47 per cent), West Bengal (7.80 per cent) and Jharkhand (4.86 per cent) shows that the GST collections was not propelled by revival in private consumption.
- The real challenge lies in improving compliance levels across the entire spectrum of industries where inputs/raw materials are sourced largely from the informal sector.
- 5] Changing the structure of the economy: The formalisation of firms, the growing concentration of economic power in the hands of a few, imply that for the same level of output, the tax paid will be higher.
- Increase tax rate: Around two-fifths of the taxable value (or turnover) falls under the 18 per cent slab as per research by some analysts.
- This implies that simply merging the 12 per cent and the 18 per cent slab as some have been suggesting would lead to a revenue loss.
- Before opting for such adjustments, the GST Council must first ascertain the potential revenue (net of cess and refunds) at varying levels of compliance, tax rates and exemptions afforded.
- Now, as per some estimates presented to the 15th Finance Commission, with existing exemptions in place, the current tax regime should ideally yield revenues equivalent to 8.23 per cent of GDP.
- In another scenario, even if existing exemptions are kept in place, and if a single rate of 14 per cent is levied, then collections should rise to 8.93 per cent.
Considering the current economic situation, now may not be an opportune moment to raise taxes. But there is no getting around it. Both the Centre and the states need to work towards this.