Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said that the Goods and Services Tax regime cannot be rejected now as it has been approved in Parliament and by all state Assemblies. Sitharaman, who was meeting businessmen, entrepreneurs and chartered accountants in Pune, made the remark while responding angrily to a member of the audience who had appeared to criticise the GST framework.

The person had told Sitharaman that the government had sometimes not taken suggestions given by those who had complaints about GST. “Because there are five suggestions...they are the real problem-making in the GST,” the delegate said. “If those concerns are addressed, without changing the law structure at all, it will reduce a lot of burden and everybody will be happy. It will really be termed a good and simple tax. As of today, everybody is cursing the government – industry is cursing, consultants are cursing, auditors are cursing...”

Sitharaman interrupted at this point, and said: “You can come with 50 people if you want, with five or 50 of your recommendations. In this country, after a long time, with so many parties in the Parliament, and all state governments working together, we have come up with something.”

“Suddenly, and I am sorry to say this, we can’t say, oh what a goddamn structure is this,” she added. “It is giving us this pain...I am sorry, it is only two years. I wish from day one it met with your satisfaction.”

“On GST, I honestly want each one of us to give solutions for better compliance,” Sitharaman said. “But we can’t just damn it! It has been passed in the Parliament, it has been passed in every state Assembly. It might have its flaws, it might probably give you difficulties, but I am sorry, it is the law of this country. I would appeal to you all to work together to make sure we have a better framework, if it is giving problems now.”

Arun Jaitley was the finance minister when the Goods and Services Tax came into effect on the midnight of June 30, 2017. The system subsumed most indirect taxes levied on goods and services into five tax rates – zero, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. There have been suggestions to have fewer slabs, or even a single slab, to reduce complexity. The GST Council, which decides the rates, has removed most items from the 28% slab gradually in the last two years.

In January this year, traders across the country had asked the Centre to simplify the procedures related to the tax, PTI reported. “If the Goods and Services Tax procedures are made simple and traders are not unnecessarily harassed or victimised, it will inculcate a confidence among the trading community about GST and more and more people will come under formal economy,” the Confederation of All India Traders had said in a communication to the government.

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