Boost To Consumer Confidence As Cabinet Approves Setting Up of NAA
In a strong message to the trading community to pass on the tax benefits and to the consumers that their interests were being protected, the Union Cabinet on Thursday gave a formal shape to the formation of the National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA) under the Goods and Services Tax Regime to ensure that benefits of rate reduction are passed on to the consumers by way of reduction of prices.
The NAA formation comes closes on the heels of reports coming in that despite a reduction of tax from 18 to 5 per cent for restaurants under the GST regime, the owners of these outlets have hiked prices pleading that they had to adjust for the higher costs due to withdrawal of the input credit scheme to them. However, the consumers are up in arms against this move and have complained to the authorities that the restaurants have hiked rates in their restaurants from 7 to 15 per cent.
Keeping this in mind, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi gave its approval for the creation of the posts of Chairman and Technical Members of the National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA). This paves the way for the immediate establishment of this apex body, which is mandated to ensure that the benefits of the reduction in GST rates on goods or services are passed on to the ultimate consumers by way of a reduction in prices.
The establishment of the NAA, to be headed by a senior officer of the level of Secretary to the Central Government with four Technical Members from the Centre and/or the States, is one more measure aimed at reassuring consumers that Government is fully committed to take all possible steps to ensure the benefits of implementation of GST in terms of lower prices of the goods and services reach them.
It may be recalled that effective from midnight of November 14, 2017 the GST rate has been slashed from 28 per cent to 18 per cent on goods falling under 178 headings. There are now only 50 items which attract the GST rate of 28 per cent. Likewise, a large number of items have witnessed a reduction in GST rates from 18 per cent to 12 per cent and so on and some goods have been completely exempting from GST.
The “anti-profiteering” measures enshrined in the GST law provide an institutional mechanism to ensure that the full benefits of input tax credits and reduced GST rates on supply of goods or services flow to the consumers. This institutional framework comprises the NAA, a Standing Committee, Screening Committees in every State and the Directorate General of Safeguards in the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC).
Affected consumers who feel the benefit of commensurate reduction in prices is not being passed on when they purchase any goods or services may apply for relief to the Screening Committee in the particular State. However, in case the incident of profiteering relates to an item of mass impact with ‘All India’ ramification, the application may be directly made to the Standing Committee. After forming a prima facie view that there is an element of profiteering, the Standing Committee shall refer the matter for detailed investigation to the Director General of Safeguards, CBEC, which shall report its findings to the NAA.
In the event the NAA confirms there is a necessity to apply anti-profiteering measures, it has the authority to order the supplier/ business concerned to reduce its prices or return the undue benefit availed by it along with interest to the recipient of the goods or services. If the undue benefit cannot be passed on to the recipient, it can be ordered to be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund. In extreme cases, the NAA can impose a penalty on the defaulting business entity and even order the cancellation of its registration under GST.