The GST Council meet in Goa on Friday did not meet the expectations of the automobile industry. It did not announce the rate cut that the industry, along with biscuit manufacturers and some other sections of the FMCG industry was expecting. Instead, in an effort to boost tourism, the council rationalized rates in the hotel industry to make them at par with those prevailing across the globe. This was needed as India is emerging as a prominent tourist destination (as also for medical tourism). The council cut the rates of rooms with tariff above Rs 7501 from 28% to 18% and those with tariff between Rs 2501 to Rs 7500 to 12% from 18%. Rooms below Rs 1000 remain GST-free while those between Rs 1001 and Rs 2500 will continue to attract 12% as before. Hence, the mid-segment has been broadened to include rooms from Rs 1001 to Rs 7500 and will now attract 12% GST. The tax rate on outdoor catering has also been cut to 5%. But travelers have to be prepared to shell out more for caffeinated drinks, including energy drinks, as they will now attract 28% GST instead of 18% before and an additional compensation cess of 12%. The government is trying to discourage the consumption of such drinks as they are considered sin goods.
The other rationalization of taxes was in job work where GST on job work in diamond was reduced from 5% to 1.5% and in engineering (other than bus body building) from 18% to 12%. In order to discourage the use of single-use plastic and support alternatives, the council brought plates and cups made of leaves, flowers and barks to zero percent from the 5% currently imposed on them. But the railway wagon, coaches and rolling stock industry was in for a surprise as the GST rate on them was upwardly revised from 5% to 12% without the accumulation of ITC. But the boldest move by the council was for small traders. In a major relief, business entities with a turnover of up to Rs 2 crore were exempted from filing annual returns. This is expected to benefit a large number of businesses.