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After President's Nod, Next Steps Ahead On GST

After the nod from President Pranab Mukherjee to the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill, 2014, and its Gazette notification, the process remains long in implementing the pan-India Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime:

- The parliament will once again have to take up three relevant bills — one to permit the central government to levy a Central GST, another for an Integrated GST where more than one state is involved and then a model bill to facilitate states to levy their respective State GST.

- In tandem, the states will have to enact their own legislation for their respective State GSTs. This is because the GST regime will involve the imposition of both a Central and a State levy, both at preferably identical rates.

- Another main issue to be addressed is: What will be the GST rate? This remains a matter of hot debate and the various base rates recommended by experts and stakeholders vary from around 15.5 percent to as high as 26 percent.

- The rate has to be decided by the soon-to-be-formed GST Council, which will be chaired by the Union Finance Minister with all state finance ministers as members.

- The GST Council also has to put in place a dispute resolution mechanism.

- The necessary IT infrastructure, too, has to be set up. Towards this, a non-government company was constituted in 2013 — Goods and Services Tax Network. This company has mandated Infosys to provide the IT backbone. The progress in this regard, officials maintain, is as per schedule.

- The Goods and Services Tax Network has targeted October for the commencement of transferring all existing assessees to the new system, along with software and hardware tests.

- Training will also begin for some 100,000 officials at the central and state levels who are involved with indirect taxes.

- The coding of items and the rates of tax into the software is to commence in December, followed by beta runs from February.

- The system, officials said, is expected to be fully functional by mid-February for trials — in time to meet the targeted roll-out date of April 1, 2017.

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