Highlights of the 43rd and 44th GST Council Meetings

– Khushi Verma, Student of First Year, Panjab University, Chandigarh

The 1st ever GST (goods and services tax) council meeting was held under the able guidance of the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley from 22 to 23 September 2016 with a determined view to roll out GST on 1 April 2017. 29 states and 2 union territories participated in the meeting to decide the regulation under the composition scheme and charge 1-2% tax from traders with total turnover of upto Rs. 50 lakhs. Since then, many changes have come to GST in India and many meetings have also been held with the changing times, and costs of certain goods and services. Recently the 43rd and the 44th GST council meetings were held.  

To get familiar with the updates of recent meetings, let’s start with the highlights of the 43rd GST council meeting. The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman through video conferencing mode on 28th May, 2021. Union Minister of State for Finance & Corporate Affairs Shri Anurag Thakur besides Finance Ministers and senior officers of the Ministry of Finance of other states and union territories also participated in the meeting. The council made the undermentioned recommendations relating to GST rates. As a COVID-19 relief measure, medical oxygen, oxygen concentrators and other oxygen storage and transportation equipment, certain diagnostic markers test kits and COVID-19 vaccines, Amphotericin B, etc., have been recommended for full exemption from IGST, even if imported on payment basis up to 31 August 2021. To check if further relief in items for COVID-19 is realizable a Group of Minsters (GOM) was constituted. The GOM was asked to give its report by 8th June,2021.

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The GST council also recommended to roll out an Amnesty Scheme for all small taxpayers (MSME) that could be from 1st June 2021 to 31st August 2021. Along with these recommendations, rationalization of late fee for Small Taxpayers was decided to applicable to future liabilities, annual form was rationalized as Government decided to amend CGST rules, annual return filing was continued to as an optional measure for Small Taxpayers and a special session on GST Compensation Cess was decided to be held before 22nd July 2021. After this meeting, the 44th GST Council met with a purpose to reduce the GST rates on the specified items being used in Covid-19 relief and management like hand sanitisers, face masks, gloves, PPE Kits, temperature scanners and others and to take a decision on relief in respect of COVID-19 related individual items based on the report of Group of Ministers.

The 44th GST Council met on 12th June,2021 via video conferencing under the Chairmanship of Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman along with Union minister of state (MOS) for finance Anurag Thakur and finance ministers of states and union territories to finalise modalities to compensate states for revenue shortfall of Rs. 2.35 lakh crore for the current financial year. Council decided that the tax rate on ventilators, medical grade oxygen, COVID-19 testing kits, oxygen concentrators and BiPAP machine is to be brought down to 5 percent from 12 percent at present. The GST on anti-coagulants like Heparin, high flow nasal canula (HFNC) device and pulse oximeters has been reduced to 5 percent from 12 percent at present and on hand sanitisers and temperature check equipment has been reduced to 5 percent from 18 percent at present. The 5 percent GST on vaccines however was not changed.

GST on ambulances have also been decreased from 28 percent to 12 percent. The decisions taken during the meeting of the GST Council were based on the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GOM). The rate reductions and exemptions on various items were said to be applicable till 30th September,2021. The council also said that the Centre will buy the 75 per cent vaccine and will pay its GST too, but 70 per cent of income from GST will be shared with States.

Many changes were made and introduced in the two most recent GST Council Meetings for the welfare of the people and the states. It would be satisfying to see if these changes truly help the population at the ground zero level and not just remain a written update for the official books.

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