Ahead of clearing a national Goods and Services Tax or GST for the country, the Congress said in parliament that the government has its support. With a “but”. The bill that will decide the rate of the tax must be put to debate and vote in both houses of parliament and not just the Lok Sabha, said Congress leader P Chidambaram. The Congress says that unless the GST is capped at 17-18%, it will burden consumers too heavily. “Because this is an indirect tax, it must be kept as low as possible,” said Mr Chidambaram. What the Rajya Sabha is approving today is an amendment to the constitution that births the GST. The rate will be decided over the next few months in consultation with state governments and then brought for review to parliament in separate legislation. “This is far too important legislation which will impact the next 50-100 years,” said Mr Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister in the former Congress-led government. He said the next GST proposal must be treated as a Finance Bill and not a Money Bill. While the former is debated and voted upon by both houses, the latter cannot be rejected by the Rajya Sabha once it has been cleared by the Lok Sabha. Instead, the Rajya Sabha can only recommend changes. The government has a firm majority in the Lok Sabha, but is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, which is where opposition parties especially the Congress, which has the most members in the Upper House, can block a proposal or use their strength to force revisions. The Congress says that unless the GST is capped at 17-18%, it will burden consumers too heavily. “Because this is an indirect tax, it must be kept as low as possible,” said Mr Chidambaram. A GST council, combining representatives of the centre with state governments, with decision-making powers skewed towards them, will decide on the tax rate to be submitted to parliament for its review.
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