Does anyone understand GST?

GST was a great opportunity for the government to make the tax code of India more lucid, simple & progressive. Why does Indian government have to tinker every business through a 1000 different categories? can we have a few broad tax slabs and classify which industry falls in which slab? Here are some other of the reasons for my opposition:

  1. Can for once we can do away with the various cess, surcharge etc. Anyways government collects more education cess than the incremental expenditure on education/literacy. Same with krishi kalyan. If government needs additional taxes to balance its budget, then why not it simplify the tax code by including them in the main taxes as well. GST was a great opportunity to simplify things.
  2. Indian tax code is a maze and subject to interpretation. There are so many categories, so many exceptions to the tax code that no individual in their lifetime can ever fathom to the truest extend how much tax they owe. GST was conceived as a uniform tax code, yet why the tax rate should vary by what price the seller sells at, what market it is tapping, which region it is made it, what kind of industry it makes etc. etc. to me GST is the plain old vanilla tax under a new wrapper.
  3. Why do restaurants that don’t have air conditioning have a lower tax rate? Is the government trying to hamper restaurants providing good service? Furthermore the tax planning & complex codes forces individuals & businesses to lock their funds into areas which are not the most economically efficient… hence destroying value for them & the nation. I am ok to have some basic macro level concessions made for social upliftment, but there needs to be a goal, a cause that needs to be fulfilled. Taxes should not be used as a political tool.
  4. If you buy furniture from a small unorganized shop, the price that you pay depends on your mode of payment, the fact that you require bill/invoice or not etc. While organized sector have better transparency & 100% payment against a bill/invoice. What is GST doing to stop this pilferage? On the contrary, the tax code is designed in a way to eat away bulk of the efficiencies away that organized retail brings.
  5. Indirect taxes by their very nature are regressive because they are applicable irrespective of the income of the payer & the burden of taxes is higher on the poor because their annual expenditure (as a % of their income/wealth) is higher. Hence higher taxes for poor. Yet GST has taken no steps to reduce the country’s reliance on indirect taxes. Furthermore we have stupid tax classifications:
    1. Not only capital gains tax is lower than regular income, it has so many exemptions that effectively results in labor taxed in full rate (which is how poor/middle class make their money) but capital practically tax free (which is how rich make their wealth)
    2. Holding stocks for one year makes them tax free. This is simply ridiculous way to deepen the pockets of the rick
    3. Dividend distribution taxes is a stupid way of making a slab based direct tax into a much lower rate indirect tax.
    4. Service tax for some stupid reason is categorized as a direct tax by India. It is linked to the revenue/invoice value and should be treated like an indirect sales tax.
  6. Farm income tax exemption is a ridiculous holy cow in India. The regular income taxes are designed that the burden falls on the rich & not on the poor. After tax exemptions, only income beyond ~3Lkahs INR is taxed, that is close to 3-4X of annual per capita income. Is it not a relaxation enough? Why are the rich from farm any different from the industrialist?

I am unable to comprehend how GST has reformed or simplified our tax code. Infact half hearted approach has let to yet another wasted opportunity. A very demeaning summary on the complex Indian tax code by a NRI friend of mine is:

An Indian mind cannot think of anything simple. It is in his culture to over-complicate trivial issues, graft manuscripts detailing out the rules, scenarios and procedures detailing out a million cases yet keep the crux of the matter unaddressed and subject to interpretation. Furthermore, appoint a bureaucrat/enforcer who will swear by this rulebook as if it is the god’s gift to mankind and an army of middlemen who will guide anybody and everybody how to circumvent this rule…. This parasitic organization was once confined to the public sector & administrative services but has now percolated to the private sector and the rest of the nation. Here this vicious force is thriving without any moral consciousness, though patronage of the promoters without any checks and balances and really crippling the nation.

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