New Delhi: West Bengal on Saturday sought fixing of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) at 18 per cent on all goods except tobacco and luxury items bringing it down from the present level of 28 per cent.
West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra told the media here that the launching of the GST in a hurry led to a loss of nearly Rs one lakh crore for the Centre and the states put together.
Speaking at an event at the International Trade Fair here, Mitra said that despite Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warning the Centre against the GST saying that they were not ready for it, it went ahead with the new tax regime and now traders were unable to file returns due to various technical complexities.
“We told the central government not to launch GST on July 1, 2017,” Mitra said.
“I am unhappy to say that the Centre has shortfall of approximately Rs 65,000 crore in last three months and states of around Rs 30,000 crore,” Mitra said.
He added that about close to Rs one lakh crore of “expected protected fund” has already been lost in past three months.
The Minister said that in September, close to 30 per cent taxpayers did not file returns which increased to 40 per cent in October.
“A possible reason is that small traders are not able to file their returns… If they don’t file returns, there has to be a tax shortfall,” Mitra said adding that the situation is “very grim”.
“Traders are not able to file GSTR – 2 forms, which is meant for purchase. Therefore, we had proposed a simple form for filing returns,” he said.
Mitra also said that there should be a principle on the basis of which tax rates should be decided on goods and services, not on the basis of “cherry picking and lobbying”.
He said the most dangerous thing with the situation is non-availability of refund processing menu system till date.
“Now, they are talking about manual refund, instead of the computerised process. Even the return data is not available. This may create a stumbling block in smooth refund… Therefore the traders are not able to claim refunds,” he said.
“Data consistency” is another serious problem, said the Minister, adding that the data provided by GSTN to the states is “incomplete and erroneous”.
Speaking of digital transactions, Mitra said that there has been drastic fall since March 2017.
“In March 2017, e-transaction was up to Rs 149 lakh crore. However, in August 2017 it came down to Rs 109 lakh crore,” he said.
Speaking of Aadhaar accounts, the Minister said, “According to a government department, Centre for Internet Security, 13.5 crore Aadhaar accounts have been compromised,” Mitra pointed out.
He said “compromised security” of Aadhaar accounts was the reason that Banerjee did not open an Aadhaar account.