September 2017 News

GST Burdens Consumers With Double Taxation As Govt Refuses To Withdraw Toll Tax

20 September 2017
Rising Kashmir
Yawar Hussain

Srinagar: The consumers are facing double taxation after the introduction of goods and services tax (GST) over two months back as the government has continued with the toll tax in the state. The toll tax remains even as GST was promised to bring in a single tax administration across India. The PDP-BJP government had agreed to impose GST promising that this will provide relief to consumers by making goods or new services cheaper. However consumers face dual tax. State's Excise department has collected the toll tax levied on goods brought in from outside the state. During the month of August the collection was Rs 52. 9 crore at Lakhanpur toll plaza. In July the recovery was Rs 44. 19 crore. The GST has also triggered chaos in the market. Only 78 percent of the traders and businessmen have filed their GST returns upto 29 August, with the Commercial Taxes department, from 94 percent of those who are registered. State has continued with toll even as Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has called for its immediate abolition. Mushtaq Wani, former president of KCCI, told Rising Kashmir , ' We are seeking abolition of toll tax ever since government introduced the GST. The industry has been unanimously advocating for it.' He said the traders 'in Kashmir are not in favour of toll tax.' An industrialist, wishing anonymity, said that the 'toll tax at Lakhanpur never favored Kashmir industry and now after the GST it should have been abolished.' 'The Jammu based industries are reaping benefit of GST while the products and goods reach to common consumers at higher prices.' Finance Minister, Haseeb Drabu, in July, had announced during the special session of the Assembly that State cabinet will take a call 'on the future of the toll tax' but a week later he voiced his 'opinion in favour of continuation of the double taxation regime.' Drabu recently stated in a meeting with top officials of the Excise department that the local industry is benefiting from the toll tax as imported goods are priced at higher cost. However, officials said, since Jammu and Kashmir is a consumer state the reliance on goods of daily consumption is higher which makes people face the brunt. President of Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI), Rakesh Gupta, said that they are in favour of abolition of toll tax but 'then if the toll tax is abolished on all items many of the industrial units in the division will close down.' 'We have been asked by the Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu to identify the goods which are vital for industries so that toll can continue on these products while it can be abolished for other goods,' Gupta said adding that they are in favor of 'one nation one tax regime.' Principal Secretary, Finance Department, Naveen K Choudhary, said that it is a policy decision which would be taken by state cabinet. 'The Finance department has put forth both the pros and cons of the toll tax,' he said. Officials said that Excise department levies toll tax on all vehicles and goods which enter the state jurisdiction according to their category at different points including Lakhanpur, Jammu Tawi railway station, Udhampur railway station, Lower Munda in Kashmir and Upshi in Ladakh. Apart from these points, dozens of small posts also collect toll from the vehicles. At present, the Excise department levies toll on all goods which have been divided into five categories. One is Rs 4,000 per quintal category for cigarettes, second is Rs 900 per quintal category for chicken and meat and Rs 295 per quintal category under which tobacco and other products fall. Another is Rs 235 per quintal category under which oil and other products fall. Besides, there is a common category of Rs 80 per quintal.