Goods and Services Tax for India

R. Kavita Rao
JEL codes: 
Working Paper 2008-57

Indirect taxes on goods and services at the state level constitute 85 percent of own tax revenue of the state governments of which sales tax alone accounts for 61 percent. A change in regime in recent times from cascading types sales taxes to taxes based on input-tax credit within taxation of goods, as well as the adoption of a uniform rates of tax, has resulted in buoyant revenues. However, the reform agenda is far from complete. The proposed GST regime constitutes the next step towards comprehensive reforms of indirect taxes in India. It would be the final step or a step in the right direction, depending on how the country chooses to define the constituents of this new regime. Decisions on the design of the proposed tax are not yet in the public domain. In this context, the objective of this paper is twofold: First, to identify the likely form of the proposed tax and the contentious issues that need a resolution before the tax can be implemented effectively. Second, given the importance of indirect taxes in the portfolio of the states, since any change would not affect all states uniformly, an attempt would be made to project the likely impact of one particular design of GST on states. While these estimates can at best be tentative, they will highlight the fact that the impact is differential across states and these differences would have to be taken into account in designing the proposed assignment of tax powers between the centre and the states.