In a bid to provide relief to small and medium taxpayers amid the second wave of coronavirus pandemic, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed a special amnesty scheme on Friday. The decision was taken at the 43rd Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting.

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“To provide relief to small taxpayers, an amnesty scheme has been recommended for reducing late fee,” finance minister said. Touting it as the “biggest decision taken today” Sitharaman explained that the new scheme is likely to benefit around 89% of those who pay GST. “Taxpayers can file pending returns and avail benefits of scheme with reduced late fee. Even late fee has been rationalized,” she further mentioned.

“The maximum amount of late fee has been reduced and will come into effect from future tax periods,” FM added.

“As expected the GST Council has approved an Amnesty Scheme on waiver or reduction of Late Fees for Late filing of GSTR 1 and GSTR 3B. However it would have been fair if the late fees which is refunded for those who have already paid and filed the return. It is important to note that the GST Portal does not allow filing of GST Returns before payment of Late fees,” said Vivek Jalan, Partner, Tax Connect Advisory Services LLP.

Several traders’ bodies have urged the Centre to provide extension of the deadline for filing GST returns. Traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) earlier wrote to finance minister urging her to extend the date of filing of various GSTR returns till August under the GST Act and Rules, without late fee and interest.

Ravaged by the second wave of coronavirus pandemic, states urged the Centre sought tax waivers on various medicines, medical devices, and health services, according to sources. On this, the GST Council recommended to set up a group of ministers (GoM) to review the proposition and come back with their recommendation in 10 days. “This seems like a missed opportunity as even a middle path of reducing the GST rate to 5%, even on an interim basis, instead of a complete exemption might have been beneficial to many,” said Mahesh Jaising, Partner, Deloitte India.

GST Council exempted duty on import of Amphotericin-B medicine used for treatment of black fungus. The panel also extended the exemption on imported COVID-related supplies for donation till August 31, Nirmala Sitharaman said.

“The decision to allow exemption on import of COVID related products even for paid imports, where the import is meant for donation is a welcome one. This brings parity on the imports regardless if the same is imported free of cost or paid for, as long as it is for donation purposes,” said Mahesh Jaising.

GST panel decided that the Centre will borrow Rs 1.58 lakh crore and pass it on to the states to make up for the shortfall in their revenues from the implementation of the GST. A special session of the Council will be held soon to consider extending the five-year GST shortfall compensation period to states beyond 2022.

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