The stalemate over compensating states for the shortfall in GST collections continued on Monday with a meeting of the GST Council ending without reaching any consensus on the issue.

The panel, which is the highest decision-making body on indirect taxes, for the second time in a week failed to reach a consensus on the Centre's proposal of states borrowing against future GST collections to make up for the shortfall.

This was the third meeting in a row that discussed compensation shortfall without a decision.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who heads the Council, said the Centre cannot borrow and pay states for the shortfall as it would lead to rise in bond yields, resulting in rise in borrowing costs for the government and the private sector.

However, this would not be the case if states borrowed against future GST receipts, she said, adding 21 states had agreed to borrow as suggested by the Centre.

The Centre is open to anyone needing facilitation, she said, adding, "Option 1 already a lot of people have said and they even today said tomorrow morning we're approaching for the borrowing from the market." On the other hand, she said, some other states insisted on a decision being taken by consensus.

"Unfortunately we were not able to arrive at a consensus," Sitharaman said.

Briefing the media after the over five-hour long meeting, she said it was a continuation of the 42nd GST Council meeting and it was decided to extend the cess beyond five years.

In its previous meeting last week, the Council had decided to extend the surcharge on taxes on luxury goods such as cars and tobacco products beyond June 2022 but failed to reach a consensus on ways to compensate states for loss of tax revenue.

On the way forward on the compensation issue, she said, "If there are states which want to borrow we will facilitate and I have also kept completely the option open for states to come and talk. If they have any questions, I ready to engage with them." The projected total compensation shortfall in the current fiscal stands at Rs 2.35 lakh crore.

The Centre had in August given two options to the states -- to borrow either Rs 97,000 crore from a special window facilitated by the RBI or Rs 2.35 lakh crore from the market. It had also proposed extending the compensation cess levied on luxury, demerit and sin goods beyond 2022 to repay the borrowing.

Following a demand by some states, the amount of Rs 97,000 crore was increased to Rs 1.10 lakh crore.

As many as 21 states -- which are BJP-ruled or have supported it on various issues -- have opted to borrow Rs 1.10 lakh crore to meet the compensation shortfall.

"A large number of states are now ready for this kind of system to be operated. And once they actually come with the exact figures so that would be worked out for each of the states.

"So I think this is what needs to be understood and emphasised in this whole scheme of things, that the issue which is being raised is not something that I'm paying for my pocket but it is a separate pocket that is there that will be used to pay for all these," Economic Affairs Secretary Tarun Bajaj explained.

The Centre has released Rs 20,000 crore to the states towards compensation shortfall so far in the current fiscal.

Under the GST structure, taxes are levied under 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent slabs.

On top of the highest tax slab, a cess is levied on luxury, sin and demerit goods, and the proceeds from the same are used to compensate states for any revenue loss. But due to a slowdown in the economy, collections have fallen short of the money needed for compensating states.

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Free Press Journal