One Nation, One Tax- Yay or Nay?

The NDA Govt – as part of the most prominent reform since Independence – rolled out the much awaited Goods & Services Tax reforms on the 1st of July, 2017. In this blog, we will understand why GST could not be the uniform tax NDA Govt was aiming for, we will also access the impact of the GST, how will it affect your pocket, the likely challenges the assesses will face while filing the GST taxes which is termed as “The Tax Maze” and ultimately what stocks should you look out for to plan your personal investment decisions.

What was the current problem Indian economy was facing? For consumers, India’s GST is one tax in the most practical sense that currently a bar of soap costs, theoretically, 29 different prices across 29 different states due to 29 different state VATs. Under the GST regime, there’s just one GST rate for a bar of soap. Where India differs from other countries that have implemented GST is that there isn’t one single rate that applies to all goods or services. For example, in Singapore, the tax levied on a pair of shoes and the tax levied on a bar of soap is the same – 7%.

Here’s a quick comparison of rate structure in India as compared to a few selected countries who have successfully implemented GST earlier.

Country Tax Rate
India 5%, 12%, 18%, 28%
Singapore 7%
Malaysia 6%
New Zealand 15%
Aruba 1.5%
Brazil 7%, 12%
Germany 19%

However, the one nation one tax regime was not quiet achieved as the NDA Govt had to factor in the fact that the poor were to be protected from the high rates & a set of political considerations which includes vote bank. In India, the GST council has come out with a rather unwieldy four-rate structure: 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. In addition to this, there is the exempt category (0%) and additional cesses that are charged on top of certain products, which makes our GST regime have seven effective tax rate slabs.

What will be the macroeconomic impact of the GST rate structure?

 

The impact of GST was anticipated to provide an increase in the GDP growth rate by close to 2-3% provided the GST tax structure was comprehensive. However, witnessing a significantly complicated structure as ours, I suspect that the the GDP growth would not be more than 0.5-1% as compared to the current growth rates. The reason being the complexity of multiple tax rates and continuation of the various exemptions.

A recent analysis by HSBC shows that the roll out of GST is likely to add only 0.4% to GDP, “lower than earlier estimates as multiple tax rates and exemptions announced… are far from an ideal structure and could blunt the growth impact of the reform process.”

Sectoral Impact?

The GST benefit to a certain sector depends on the following two factors:

  1. The actual rate of taxation
  2. The extent to which the operating costs of a particular sector are eligible for the input credit

If a particular sector has higher tax rates but has significant amount of the input credits, the sector shall actually reap the benefits of lower operating costs.

Following is quick synopsis of the critical sectors and the likely impacts:
Capture

Filings Maze!

Businesses will have to undertake 37 annual filings (three a month plus an annual return) for each state the firm operates in. The basic problems for most small and informal businesses are similar: operating costs are about to go up as business owners hire accountants and computerise their operations. Anecdotal reports show that small firms with revenues of below Rs 1 crore could have 20% to 40% of their existing profits go towards GST compliance costs and higher tax rates. Thus, the overall operational costs might push the overall profitability southwards in the medium term. However, once the processes are streamlined, the growth rates might increase but the improvement comes with a significant gestation period.

Joblessness?

GST is deemed to be a bridge to convert the unorganized sector into an organized form. However, it’s largely unclear at this point what extent of small businesses will simply become unviable post-GST. A recent report is not optimistic on what the new GST regime will do for job creation. We note that unorganised sector employs a majority of the labour force. With the unorganised sector shifting to the organised sector, a significant labour absorption capacity that currently exists may get eroded. This can compound the already chronic problem of job creation in India.

Markets Trajectory?

The stock markets have advanced significantly and have taken a positive cue from the fairly smooth roll out of the GST reforms. There were 2 advancing stocks for each decline in the markets for the week so far. However, the markets are expected to be jittery in the medium term as the turmoil regarding the GST filings and the infrastructure glitches.

The markets are expected to drop to the 9400 levels due to corrections. However, the technical indicators of Fibonacci extensions suggest that if the Nifty crosses the 9706 mark, the markets will turn bullish in the medium term. The data currently suggests that the markets are overpriced. Here are my picks for a medium term investment goal to watch out for on corrections:

Capture

What does it mean for YOU as a consumer?

  • Day-to-day essentials are largely exempt from GST
  • Banking and telecom services will get more expensive
  • Eating out to be cheaper if you eat at a non-air conditioned restaurant
  • Luxury cars, which will get cheaper
  • Movie tickets, especially regional cinemas, will get more expensive
  • FMCG products will be cheaper

Anti-profiteering

For instance, soaps and toothpaste are supposed to get cheaper after the rollout of GST. They currently have an effective tax rate of 24-25% and after GST, this will come down to 18%. However, if as a consumer, you have always been paying say Rs 75 for a tube of toothpaste, it’s highly unlikely that the company that sells you the toothpaste or bar of soap will make it cheaper once you’ve gotten used to paying Rs 75.

To solve this potential problem, the GST legal framework creates an “anti-profiteering authority” that will check whether businesses are passing on the benefits of the new tax regime to consumers. Legal experts and industry leaders have almost unanimously declared that this anti-profiteering body will spark a minefield of litigation and prove to be problematic.

Conclusion

GST roll out on time and with ‘just enough’ infrastructure is a bold move by the NDA Govt. I do agree with the fact that the awareness approach could have been better. On a consolidated basis, the end consumer may not be the most benefiting entity in the economy. The businesses will be definitely benefited from the GST structure. However, there are a few aspects where the NDA Govt must act in the coming years. Once stabilized, the NDA Govt must try and unify the existing 4 rates as the economy starts witnessing the long term benefits of the GST regime.

Thank you. 🙂

Opinions and counters are encouraged!

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Published by

Akshay Baregar

A hardcore analyst who loves to read about finance, upcoming concepts, ​and their applicability. Have always wanted to become an analyst and been thinking like one from the recent past. This is my attempt to write and make the world around me aware of the financial happenings and the likely impacts/ effects on the Indian/Global Economy. My favourite topics are monetary policies, fiscal reforms, market movements, predictions, wealth management etc . Hoping for an excellent response and feedback from the readers.

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