Banana for Rs 442 - GST Tax Laws

A recent social media post by an Indian actor depicting an invoice issued by a prominent hotel where he was charged INR 442 for two bananas created widespread furor among the public, industry players and the tax authorities, with certain quarters challenging the legality of levy of Goods and Service Tax (“GST”) itself on the supplies made. The invoice indicated the description of the sale item as a ‘fruit platter’ and the cumulative rate of GST as 18%. The Central Excise & Taxation Department also swung into action, served a show cause notice to the hotel and imposed a penalty of INR 25,000 for levying GST on sale of bananas. According to the department, serving bananas to the customer in a hotel room was an exempt supply of goods, not involving any element of service.

The banana row brings to light the classic conundrum of classification of composite supplies and consequent rate of GST applicable to such supplies. Composite supplies refers to supplies of two or more taxable supplies of goods or services or both, which are naturally bundled and supplied in conjunction with each other in the ordinary course of business, one of which is a principal supply (for example, supply of an air-conditioner coupled with delivery and installation at the customer’s premises would be a composite supply with supply of air-conditioner being the principal supply). The rate of tax in case of a composite supply is the rate applicable to the principal supply.
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Since its implementation on July 01, 2017, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime continues to evolve on various fronts by way of rationalisation of tax rates, availability of exemptions, procedural amendments, etc. While the Government has been relentless in its efforts to iron out every crease, bottlenecks continue to persist. With the benefit of hindsight, here is a critical look at some of the significant triumphs and misses on completion of its first anniversary.

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In the first concrete step towards implementing the much awaited Goods and Services Tax (“GST”) regime, the Model GST Law was released on June 14, 2016 (“Model”), even as the Government strives to pass the enabling Constitutional Amendments. Under the Model, Central/State GST shall be leviable on all intra-state supplies of goods and/or services and Integrated GST shall be leviable on all inter-state supplies of goods and/or services.

  1. A new Taxable Event:

As the GST regime is meant to subsume existing indirect taxes, concepts such as manufacture, provision of service, sale of goods, etc. shall be replaced by a single taxable event: supply of goods and/or services. The term “supply” has been defined to include all forms of supply of goods and/or services made or agreed to be made for a consideration by a person in the course or furtherance of business, importation of service, and supplies made or agreed to be made without consideration such as permanent transfer of business assets, etc. Interestingly, the definition also deems the supply of any branded service by an aggregator under a brand name owned by him to be a supply by the aggregator. This all pervasive definition of “supply” has to be complemented by seamless availability of input tax credit, which has been largely addressed by the Model.

However, note that the supply of goods by a registered person to a job-worker shall not be treated as supply of goods. A negative list has also been prescribed for transactions (e.g. transactions by Government, etc.) on which GST shall not apply.


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