Regulators

Media fraternity welcomes GST; few pose doubts over implementation

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MUMBAI: Amidst strong controversy, Arun Jaitley led finance ministry of India tabled the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in the parliament for further debate. GST is often termed as India’s most ambitious indirect tax reform plan by economists, which aims to stitch together a common market by dismantling fiscal barriers between states. It is a single national uniform tax levied across the country on all goods and services.

The indirect tax system in India is currently mired in multi-layered taxes levied by the Central and State governments at different stages of the supply chain such as excise duty, central sales tax (CST), value added tax (VAT) and octroi tax, among others. In GST, all these will be subsumed under a single regime. 

Even as the entire opposition party, led by Sonia Gandhi, posed a walk out from the Parliament in protest against the procedure and particulars of the amendment, Indiantelevision.com took the opportunity to seek reactions of the vanguards of the media, cable and Direct-to-Home (DTH) industries on GST. While industry stalwarts welcomed the thought behind GST unanimously, a few posed doubts over its successful implementation.

Dish TV CEO RC Venkateish says, “It will be good for the DTH sector. At present we are victims of multiple taxation system where we pay various taxes in entertainment tax, service tax etc. With GST, it will all get rolled under one. If the GST is approved and rolled out, we will have a tax reduction of three to 3.5 per cent and hence it will be a good move for the sector.”

Welcoming GST wholeheartedly, Videocon D2H CEO Anil Khera opines, “GST is a welcome move. It will help the DTH sector to prosper. DTH is the biggest victim of multiple taxation policy and GST will simplify that. The industry needs a uniform taxation system and the sooner it comes the better it is.”

Explaining why GST is good for the economy in the long run, Times Network CEO MK Anand says, “GST brings uniformity and transparency and therefore better administration. However, in the short term, there are expected to be issues. Broadcasting will move from CST, which we believe will be lower than GST as we expect and that is going to put pressure on our pricing. The broadcast ecosystem at the bottom end has elements like consultants or local operators, who may try to push for absorbing into prices. The other thing is the state wise registration and filing of GST as against the current centralised filing. This is also an additional activity that we will now have to account for and so it increases costs to some extent.”

GTPL Hathway COO Shaji Mathews supports the concept behind GST but has doubt on its successful implementation. He explains, “Taxation has been the biggest issue when it comes to digitisation. With digitisation, often only three stakeholders are associated namely: multi system operators (MSO), broadcasters and local cable operators (LCO). However in actuality, there are two more parties involved – the government and consumers. Government has been the major gainer so far from digitisation and they have been trying to shift the tax burden on to the consumer. However the consumer is not ready to take it and hence operators have been bearing the brunt of it all. With GST, the concern is over entertainment tax, which varies from state to state. No clear information is provided whether entertainment tax will be included in GST and if yes, then at what slab. So overall, while the thought behind GST is good, there are a lot of question that are still unanswered. Moreover, since the government hasn’t made any efforts to rationalise taxation, the implementation is something that remains to be observed closely. The problem is with the mechanism that the government follows, where they don’t consider the tax payers’ point of view while implementing an amendment.”

Another senior official from the cable fraternity asserts, “GST has the potential to emerge as a blessing in disguise. As we proceed with digitisation, uniformity in taxation is the least that we can expect. It has been very harsh on us, as we operate across different states and at times we end up paying tax for an already taxed item, which is not something that we should be facing. Overall, I welcome GST and see it as an encouraging move though only time will unfold the real story.”

NDTV executive vice chairperson KVL Narayan Rao adds, “Frankly, GST deals more with Goods and Service providers and doesn’t impact us directly but I consider it as a beneficial move. For example, if I have to set up a new studio at a new location, GST will help me as I won’t pay multiple taxes and hence it affects the pricing.”

Backing GST, entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala opines, “A business friendly environment had to be developed in India and taxation is a key element to that. With the Goods and Service Tax, service tax will come down to 16 per cent, which solves many problems. Hence GST is a firm step forward towards developing a business friendly scenario in India and it will surely help the country to ensure economic growth.”

As per information available, the government is expected to rollout GST by April 2016.With absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, it will not be a challenge for the government to pass it through in the lower house. However the bigger obstacle will come from the Rajya Sabha as Jaitley and company will have to penetrate through a larger opposition. The entire business fraternity will keenly observe the next few days of proceedings in both houses of the Parliament.

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