Online food aggregators Swiggy and Zomato will start depositing 5% Goods and Service Tax collected from customers directly with the government. The tax on food was earlier deposited with restaurants, who were supposed to pay it to the government.
The decision was taken at the Goods and Service Tax Council meeting that took place in Lucknow on Friday – the first meeting in 20 months.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman clarified that the customers would not be charged a new tax.
“Yes there was detailed discussion [at the meeting],” said Nirmala Sitharaman, according to Moneycontrol. “The place where food is delivered is going to be the point where tax will be collected. They will pay the GST on it. There is no new tax.”
Currently, food aggregators fall under the tax collectors at source category, meaning they collect tax from the restaurants, according to Moneycontrol.
Over the last two years, many restaurants had evaded paying the GST collected, Revenue Secretary Tarun Bajaj said, according to NDTV. There was a gap in the taxable revenue of certain Haryana restaurants as reported by the online food aggregators while collecting tax at source and the restaurants’ actual revenue.
Since 2019, the tax loss due to alleged under-reporting of restaurants’ revenue by food delivery aggregators amounts to Rs 2,000 crore, according to Moneycontrol.
Now, experts feel that that the direct payment of tax will help in finding tax evaders.
“With food delivery apps under GST, a high level of tax evasion will be curbed,” said Confederation Of All India Traders Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal, according to Moneycontrol. “Food delivery is a service and therefore [it] ought to be brought under the purview of GST.”
Meanwhile, some tax experts feel that the GST Council’s decision could increase the compliance burden – a sum of administrative costs – on the food aggregators and the restaurants, according to The Indian Express.
Restaurants may have to maintain a separate account for online deliveries now that the 5% GST on food tax will be directly paid to the government.
“While food delivery services would constitute e-commerce services, sufficient safeguards need to be taken in subjecting them to GST to ensure that smaller food outlets are protected and consumers do not end up paying more,” MS Mani, senior director of Deloitte India said.
Among other decisions taken at the GST Council’s Friday meeting, the finance minister said that fuel would not be brought under the indirect tax’s regime.
Maharashtra and Kerala had voiced their concerns over fuel under GST as it would have led to reduction in state revenue.
Further, GST on bio-diesel, which use by oil marketing companies to blend with diesel, was reduced to 5% from 12%.
The GST Council also extend concessional rates for drugs used in the treatment of the coronavirus disease till December 31. The rates were earlier applicable till September 30.
The finance minister said that the concessional rates were applicable only for medicines and not for medical equipment. These medicines are amphotericin B and tocilizumab, used in the treatment of mucormycosis or “black fungus” cases, and remdesivir and heparin given to Covid-19 patients.