Ministry wants exports, key industries out of GST purview

The commerce and industry ministry on Tuesday pressed the GST Council to keep exports out of the GST framework and levy lower taxes on labour-intensive sectors like leather, cement and plantation.

In their contention before the GST Council, the ministry officials argued the need for granting an "ab-initio" exemption from Goods and Services Tax (GST) for exporters, saying that the process of seeking tax refunds erodes their working capital.

Moreover, they stated that in view of tough global situation it is imperative to encourage exports.

Briefing reporters, commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said refund of taxes takes about six to eight months and hence it is necessary to "give an ab-intio exemption".

She asked the council to treat exporters in such a way that they do not have to pay taxes upfront. "It (GST) should not become a newer liability in the heads of exporter ... we do not want the exporter to suffer twice," she said.

She also underlined the need for encouraging labour-intensive sectors like cement, leather and plantation crops and suggested that either they should be completely exempted from the new tax or be taxed at a low rate.

For leather industry, she said, "We wanted to ensure that they can be given a complete exclusion from taxation because they have to generate lot of employment".

"If at all, you have to have a taxation, keep them at the lowest possible, which means five per cent or less than that. So that is the strong pitch we made. India has a great potential in this particular sector," she added.

On cement, she said that taxation at the moment in this sector is "very very high".

"If you calculate the central excise, VAT and other, the calculation is somewhere between 25 to 30 per cent...Cement may end up 18 per cent or more in GST regime which means it will be well above the revenue neutral rate," she said.

"So if the government is looking at (schemes like) housing for all, public spending on infrastructure, building of highways, roads, seaports, you cannot have cement being taxed so much," the minister said.

About plantations, she said, "Ideally we would like to completely keep out (this sector). But for instance, if there is a thought, they keep it in, it should be in the lowest possible (slab) because most of it get exported".

Sectors like tea and coffee, 90 per cent of the product is exported by India and it is net foreign exchange earner and the sector "should be given all the support rather than tax it".

Talking about Special Economic Zones (SEZs), she said transfer of goods from one zone to another in different states should be exempted from iGST.