GST-registered taxpayers doubled in six years: Sitharaman

The number of entities registered to pay the GST has doubled to 14 million in the six years since its inception, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha.

The number of entities registered to pay the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has doubled to 14 million in the six years since its inception, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha, which passed the Central Goods and Services Tax (Second Amendment) Bill, 2023, to align age and qualification criteria with the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, thus paving the way to set up a GST appellate tribunal (GSTAT).

Citing June 2023 data, she said the number of taxpayers registered in GST has gone up 1.4 crore. “When started in 2017, we had only 67.83 lakh taxpayers under the GST,” she added. GST is one of the major tax reforms that also saw gross monthly collections jumping from less than 1 lakh crore in 2017 to 1.87 lakh crore in April.

The amendment Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 13 to modify the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Act, 2017, in line with the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, in terms of maximum age limit of the president of GSTAT and its members. Accordingly, the maximum age limit of the president is 70 and that of the members is 67. The 52nd GST Council on October 7 recommended raising the two age limits from 67 and 65 years, respectively.

The Bill was passed by voice vote in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

It also allowed advocates having 10 years of experience to become judicial members. According to Sitharaman, both the amendments were made after the Chief Justice of India raised the inconsistencies vis-à-vis the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021. After enactment of the draft legislation, the process of selection of president and members wold be initiated, the finance minister said.

After establishment of the GSTAT, taxpayers can withdraw their existing cases from different high courts and approach the tribunal for expeditious and cost-effective redressal of their grievances. As per law, GSTAT is the forum of second appeal and the first common forum of dispute resolution between the Centre and states. The Section 109 of the CGST Act “empowers the Centre to constitute, on the recommendation of Council, by notification, with effect from such date as may be specified therein, an Appellate Tribunal” known as GSTAT. The law envisages constitution of the national bench, the state bench and area benches.

Replying to queries rated by members during the discussion, Sitharaman said the valuation rules for levying 28% GST on online gaming are prospective. “The valuation rules to exclude winnings is prospective. So, I hope there is not confusion on that,” she said.

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday also passed the Provisional Collection of Taxes Bill, 2023, which was introduced in the house on December 13. It provides for provisionally levy or increase of customs or excise duties, subject to its approval by the Parliament within 75 days. Provisionally collected taxes will be refunded if interim imposition of levies is not enacted. The Bill proposes to replace the erstwhile the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1931 with some “minor” changes that are “technical” in nature, Sitharaman said.

She said that the law empowers the government to take “tariff-protection to domestic industry on immediate basis”. It also moderates prices of commodities, avoids speculative activities after the Budget announces changes in customs and excise duties, and also for revenue consideration.