Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal has asked Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to immediately convene a meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council for a “serious mid-term correction” on tax issues.
In a letter to her, Manpreet said he is writing on the GST issue when the country is in the middle of battling the new Covid wave, which is more devastating in many ways than the one before. “There has been no meeting of the GST Council for the last six months even though Council’s own rules drafted in terms of Article 279A of the Constitution provide holding at least one meeting every quarter,” he wrote on Tuesday. His four-page letter was released on social media by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.
The Congress leader said the GST revenues constitute nearly 50% of the tax revenues of the states, while this percentage for the Centre is nearly half of that. “States have a voting share of 75% in the GST Council. However, failure to hold any constructive consultation with states for so long in such critical times makes me wonder whether Centre has usurped all the powers of states putting the spirit of cooperative federalism – that formed the very foundation of achieving consensus on the epic reform – on the backburner,” he charged.
Badal said some issues that require urgent discussion in the context of Covid are whether GST should be exempted on hand sanitizers, face masks, gloves, PPE kits, temperature check equipment, oximeters, ventilators and the like and cut in interest rates under GST law. “How do we provide relief to sectors most impacted by Covid such as MSMEs, aviation, hotels, entertainment, commercial realty, retail? Whether an amnesty scheme is needed to condone delays in payment of taxes during Covid period?” he asked.
He also said that with oversight given a go-by, the harassment of taxpayers had taken an entirely new dimension with officers resorting to threats of arrest, provisional attachment of productive assets and freezing of bank accounts with any establishment norms.