Short Notes On Vat

A brief note on Value Added Tax (VAT)

VAT is a multi-stage tax levied at each stage of the value addition chain, with a provision to allow input tax credit (ITC) on tax paid at an earlier stage, which can be appropriated against the VAT liability on subsequent sale.

VAT is intended to tax every stage of sale where some value is added to raw materials, but taxpayers will receive credit for tax already paid on procurement stages. Thus, VAT will be without the problem of double taxation as prevalent in the present tax laws.

Presently VAT is followed in over 160 countries. The proposed Indian model of VAT will be different from VAT as it exists in most parts of the world. In India, VAT will replace the existing state sales tax system.

One of the many reasons underlying the shift to VAT is to do away with the distortions in our existing tax structure that carve up the country into a large number of small markets rather than one big common market. In the present sales tax structure, tax is not levied on all the stages of value addition or sales and distribution channel which means the margins of distributors/ dealers/ retailers are not subject to sales tax at present.

Thus, the present pricing structure needs to factor only the single-point levy component of sales tax and the margins of manufacturers and dealers/ retailers etc, are worked out accordingly.

Under the VAT regime, due to multi-point levy on the price including value additions at each and every resale, the margins of either the re-seller or the manufacturer would be reduced unless the ultimate price is increased.

Implementation status: States

To Introduce VAT w.e.f April 1, 2003 The States have reiterated their commitment to introduce Value Added Tax (VAT) from April 1, 2003, after the Centre agreed to compensate them for any revenue loss due to the introduction of this new taxation measure by up to 100 per cent.

The States, on their part, have decided that  all  their VAT legislation would have common provisions in respect of all important matters and a simple VAT law will replace the existing plethora of State laws such as those on sales tax, turnover tax, purchase tax, entry tax, and the like.

The VAT by the States would have two basic rates of 10 per cent and 12.5 per cent, which would be revenue neutral rates for most items. The two basic rates have been selected so that States, which have lower sales tax rates, could raise it to 10 per cent while those levying higher rates of 17-18 per cent would have to lower them to 12.5 per cent. Over time, the VAT rates would be merged into one uniform rate. It has also been decided to phase out Central State Tax (CST) within three years with the introduction of VAT as this causes distortions in internal trade and impeded development of a common market.

Problems with present sales tax system:

At present the sales tax is levied on the gross value without allowing any credit or set-off for the taxes paid on inputs (i.e., tax is levied on gross value). Consequently, it tends to create the

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phenomenon of cascading resulting in increased consumer prices by an amount higher than what accrues to the exchequer by way of revenues from it.

Also, there is the problem of multiplicity of rates. All the states, provide for plethora of rates. These range from one to 25 per cent. This multiplicity of rates increases the cost of compliance while not really benefiting revenue. Heterogeneity prevails in the structure of tax as well. Apart from general sales tax, most states levy an additional sales tax or a surcharge. In addition, the states levy luxury tax as also an entry tax on the sale of imported goods.

All these practices of heterogeneity in structure as well as rates cause diversion of trade as well as shifting of manufacturing activity from one state to another.

Further, widespread taxation of inputs relates to vertical integration of firms, i.e., the existing system of taxes militates against ancillary industries and encourages them to produce more and more of the inputs needed rather than purchase them from ancillary industries.

The existing system of commodity taxes is non-neutral. It interferes with the producers' choice of inputs as well as with the consumers' choice of consumption, thereby leading to severe economic distortions2.

How can VAT address these issues:

VAT would not  cause cascading, nor  would it  cause vertical integration of  firms. Also, it provides total transparency of the incidence of tax. This is because, VAT is a multi-stage sales tax levied as a proportion of the value added. It is collected at each stage of the production and distribution process, and in principle, its burden falls on the final consumer.

Another feature of VAT regime is discontinuation of the sales tax based incentives to new industrial units. Until now, all the states were granting such incentives to new industries in the form of exemption from tax on the purchase of inputs as well as on the sale of finished goods, sales tax loans and/or tax deferral.

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