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– Radhika Maheshwari

The GST Council recently cut rates on 88 items, including footwear, refrigerator, washing machine and small screen TV, while the widely demanded sanitary napkins have been exempted from the levy.

Acknowledging the year-long demand, the GST Council in its 28th meeting, held on Saturday, the 21st July, decided to exempt the sanitary napkins from the realm of the Goods and Services Tax. “Sanitary napkins will be exempted from Goods & Services Tax,” said Finance Minister Piyush Goyal while addressing a press conference in Delhi following the meet of GST Council.

The demand to exempt sanitary napkin from the GST has been going on for a long time. To emphasize the point, a group of students from Gwalior had launched a campaign in January this year. They sent sanitary napkins with the message written on them to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to exempt the taxes levied on the product and make it free of cost.

Apart from sanitary napkins, the GST Council also declared stone/marble/wood idols, rakhis, sal leaves, broom to be exempted from GST. There will also be a rate cut from 28 per cent to 18 per cent on items such as lithium-ion batteries, vacuum cleaners, domestic electrical appliances, paints and varnishes, water coolers, articles such as scents, perfumes, cosmetics amongst other 88 consumer-centric goods. The GST rate cuts came into effect from 27th July 2018.

Talking about tax returns, Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said that the revision made by the GST Council in the annual turnover limit for businesses -from current Rs 1.5 crore to revised Rs 5 crore, for quarterly return-filing and monthly tax payments, is a move that is expected to benefit 93 per cent of registered GST taxpayers.

“Today’s decisions of the GST Council were guided by simplification, rationalisation. Every state wanted that the rates on these items be lowered for benefit of middle-income households. It has also been decided that the GST Council will rise above revenue consideration and focus more on job creation and economic growth,” Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said after chairing the GST Council meeting, his first after taking charge of this portfolio.

The proposed amendments to the goods and services tax (GST)-related laws, simplification of GST returns, the creation of GST Appellate Tribunal and the revenue position of states were among the key items slated for discussion in the 28th GST Council meeting.

The next meeting of the Council will be held on August 4, in which issues relating to the MSME sector will be discussed, along with ways to incentivise digital transactions via RuPay cards and the BHIM app. Businesses will get a last chance until August 31 to migrate to the GST regime, and late fee would be waived, Goyal said.

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