The Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue) through the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), an apex indirect tax authority, implements and administers excise (central excise), customs and service tax laws. Circulars, notifications and clarifications issued by the CBEC supplement these indirect tax laws. Issues involving interpretation of tax laws are decided by the judiciary, which is independent of the legislature.
Value Added Tax / Sales Tax
India does not have a classic Value Added Tax (VAT) structure. Instead, separate tax on sale of goods and on rendering of services is imposed under different legislations. Sale and purchase of goods is subjected to charge of sales tax. Sales tax is levied under Central and State Sales Tax legislations depending upon the movement of goods in pursuance of a sale transaction. If the transaction involves movement of goods from one state to another (inter-state), the tax is levied under Central Sales Tax Act (CSTA), 1956.
This Act also covers transactions of import of goods into or export of goods out of India. Sales tax is not imposed on import of goods into the country or export of goods out of the country. The Central Sales Tax (CST) Act is administered by the state governments and the tax is levied at the origination of transaction (origin based levy). The revenue collected under Central Sales Tax Act is retained by the state governments. The rates of tax under Central Sales Tax Act vary from state to state and product to product. The standard rate of CST is 4 per cent or the lower rate applicable in the state of seller if the purchaser is purchasing the same for resale or for use in manufacture of goods for sale or for specified purposes and both the seller and buyer are registered dealers. Otherwise, the rate is higher of 10 per cent or the rate applicable in the state of sale.
The transactions of sales or purchases involving movement of goods within a state (intra-state) are governed by respective State Sales Tax Acts. States also levy tax on transactions which are "deemed sales" like works contracts and leases. A works contract essentially is a contract for carrying out work involving supply of labor and material where the property in the materials passes during the course of execution of the contract. Lease is a transaction involving transfer of right to use goods.
From 1 April 2005, 21 states of India have replaced local sales tax with VAT. The rest of the states are still continuing to impose sales tax. The VAT, as introduced by 21 states, is not much different from local sales tax regime except that it captures value addition at each level of distribution network. The State VAT, as introduced by the states, continues to be a tax on sale of goods and does not include taxation of services. The standard rate of VAT is 12.5 per cent and there is reduced rate of 4 per cent. Besides that, there are exemptions and rate of 1 per cent and 20 percent for specified products.
In addition to sales tax, some states also levy additional tax / surcharge, turnover tax or entry tax.
Sales tax / state VAT is payable by the seller to the government. Ordinarily, sales tax / state VAT is recovered from the buyer as a part of consideration for sale of goods.
VAT legislation requires a VAT audit certificate/report issued by a chartered accountant in a prescribed format. The format for each state is different, but generally has the same requirements. The due date for signing the VAT audit report/certificate varies from state to state and ranges between the months of September and December.
Generally, VAT audit is applicable to all dealers who are liable to pay VAT provided their turnover of either sale or purchase exceeds a specified limit. Further, VAT audit is also mandatory for specified categories of dealers, as prescribed by state legislation.