There was a burden of “tax on tax” in the pre-existing Central excise duty of the Government of India and sales tax system of the State Governments. The introduction of Central VAT (CENVAT) has removed the cascading burden of “tax on tax” to a good extent by providing a mechanism of “set off” for tax paid on inputs and services upto the stage of production, and has been an improvement over the pre-existing Central excise duty. Similarly, the introduction of VAT in the States has removed the cascading effect by giving set-off for tax paid on inputs as well as tax paid on previous purchases and has again been an improvement over the previous sales tax regime.

But both the CENVAT and the State VAT have certain incompleteness. The incompleteness in CENVAT is that it has yet not been extended to include chain of value addition in the distributive 30 trade below the stage of production. It has also not included several Central taxes, such as Additional Excise Duties, Additional Customs Duty, Surcharges etc. in the overall framework of CENVAT, and thus kept the benefits of comprehensive input tax and service tax set-off out of the reach of manufacturers/ dealers. The introduction of GST will not only include comprehensively more indirect Central taxes and integrate goods and services taxes for set-off relief, but also capture certain value addition in the distributive trade.

Similarly, in the present State-level VAT scheme, CENVAT load on the goods has not yet been removed and the cascading effect of that part of tax burden has remained unrelieved. Moreover, there are several taxes in the States, such as, Luxury Tax, Entertainment Tax, etc. which have still not been subsumed in the VAT. Further, there has also not been any integration of VAT on goods with tax on services at the State level with removal of cascading effect of service tax. In addition, although the burden of Central Sales Tax (CST) on inter-State movement of goods has been lessened with reduction of CST rate from 4% to 2%, this burden has also not been fully phased out. With the introduction of GST at the State level, the additional burden of CENVAT and services tax would be comprehensively removed, 31 and a continuous chain of set-off from the original producer’s point and service provider’s point upto the retailer’s level would be established which would eliminate the burden of all cascading effects, including the burden of CENVAT and service tax. This is the essence of GST. Also, major Central and State taxes will get subsumed into GST which will reduce the multiplicity of taxes, and thus bring down the compliance cost. With GST, the burden of CST will also be phased out.

Thus GST is not simply VAT plus service tax, but a major improvement over the previous system of VAT and disjointed services tax – a justified step forward.

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