SRINAGAR: Following the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in Jammu and Kashmir, the last state in India to join the reform after tooth-and-nail opposition, the business community here are in chaos as they have very little knowledge about the new legislation.
Faiz Bakshi, general secretary of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an umbrella body of the Valley’s business community, told Kashmir Reader that under GST, there are more than 8,000 items now taxed, but traders and retailers have very little information about them.
“The government has made an 800-page report, which we have been examining. After a cursory look, we can say that items that were not taxed before are taxed now. So traders who were not under taxation have to be part of it now. How it can be done remains to be seen. There is no information,” Bakshi said.
GST was implemented in the state through an Indian presidential order amid an uproar over its implementation from the business community, civil society and pro-India political parties. Their protest was grounded in their view that GST would erode the state’s autonomy. Yaseen Khan, president of the Kashmir Traders Manufacturers Association (KTMF), who had also fought against its implementation, shut business activities for two days.
Khan told Kashmir Reader that though the KTMF is yet to decide its future course of action, being in the process of scrutinising the presidential order and examining whether it has killed fiscal autonomy or not, there is complete chaos among the traders.
“In the previous regimes, we had only to pay seven returns. Now we have 37. There will be more hassles. In case of any problem, we have to approach New Delhi instead of the state. These are the basic issues we have been able to figure out so far,” Yaseen said. “Traders also do not know under which slab they are to pay tax. Many items that were not taxed earlier have been taxed now. Traders under this category have to figure out what is to be done, and there is nobody to help them.”
The GST council, the body that will determine the imposition of taxes in the state, has made tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28 percent. It took India nearly 12 years to decide on GST roll-out in the country. J&K Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu was himself against its implementation.
Muhammad Irfan, a consumer, told Kashmir Reader that when he purchased a vacuum cleaner on Monday, the shopkeeper gave him a receipt dated July 3, instead of July 10, the date of his purchase.
“He told me he is unaware of what might lie in the future under the new tax. He gave me a bill of July 3, a day when the tax had not yet been implemented in the state,” Irfan said.
Businessmen who used to return unsold goods to their manufacturers have been told not to return any items until the execution of the GST runs smoothly.
“Many manufacturers in Gujarat told me not return goods this time because they believed it would be double taxed. This means we have to pay shipping plus double tax – who will do that,” asks Gulzar Ahmad, a textile wholesaler.