New Delhi, Jul 17
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council today raised the cess on cigarettes over the peak rate of 28 per cent, as the effect on their prices was lower under the new taxation regime, than earlier. The fixed cess has been hiked between Rs 485 and 792 per thousand sticks and the specific cess on the basis of the length of cigarettes will be effective from midnight today.
After the meeting of the Council through video conferencing, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the increase will give the government Rs 5,000 crore more in revenue, which would be used for compensating states. But, he said the consumer prices would not change as the increased tax incidence would only take away the windfall profits the manufacturers were earning.
According to Mr Jaitley, as per the Council decision today, the peak GST rate of 28 per cent and ad valorem cess of 5 per cent would remain in place. Mr Jaitley said, “It was noted in the first 15 days of the GST implementation that when the rate on cigarettes was translated, the cascading effect of taxes was not factored in. We noted that cigarette companies were getting windfall profit from reduction in cigarette prices.”
Mr Jaitley said the case of non-increase of cess of Rs 5,000 crore additional tax revenue would have gone to the manufacturers. The GST Council had fixed 28 per cent as the top rate for cigarettes in May 2017. A five per cent ad valorem cess was levied on top of it and Rs 1,591 per thousand sticks as fixed cess on both filter and non-filter cigarettes of not exceeding 65 mm length.
The cess rate varied from Rs 2,126 to Rs 4,170 for cigarettes of different lengths. But, this rate was lower than the pre-GST tax incidence and the choice before manufacturers was either to pass on the lower taxes to consumers by way of cutting rates or pocketing the windfall. The Minister said the GST Council will meet in the first week of August to review the progress of the implementation of GST, which was rolled out on July 1.