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“On GST rate for physically challenged persons” “Wrong on so many levels”

We, the undersigned, represent key stakeholders of the disability community
across India. We express our utter dismay at the spurious claims made by
the GST Council’s media release of July 4, which has asserted that
imposition of 5% GST on aids and appliances used by disabled persons is a
‘win-win’ situation for all concerned.

The statement declares that the 5% GST rates for these items are
‘concessional’. This is both incorrect and misleading. Pre-GST, barring
cars for “physically handicapped”, all the disability aids and appliances
did not attract any levy.

While these items (that are essential for persons with disabilities,
without which their mobility, education, employment and exercise of their
rights and duties is curtailed), attract a GST of 5%, surprisingly, many
items used for puja are completely exempt. Also exempt are items like
kumkum, bindi, bangles etc. Unpolished diamonds attract a GST of a mere
0.25% and polished diamonds and gold only 3%. Diapers used by certain
categories of the disabled and the elderly are also taxed at 12%. This,
lays bare the priorities of the government.

It also needs to be underlined that while the proposed rates for these
essential items were in the range of 5 to 18%, it was subsequent to the
raising of this issue by the Finance Ministers of Kerala and Tripura that
the rates were brought down to 5% at the June 11 meeting of the GST Council.

However, we regret that despite widespread protests across the country and
the prevailing confusion no revision in rates or clarification was made.
The tweet by Rahul Gandhi forced the government to issue a clarification on
July 4.

In its clarification of July 4, the Council, however, has taken the plea
that the compelling reason for imposing the “concessional rate” of 5% is
for the domestic manufacturer to claim input tax credit for raw material
used in the manufacture of these products.

It needs to be clarified that items like Braille printer, refreshable
Braille display and Braille note-taker, talking watches and clocks, audio
labelling devices, DAISY players, talking thermometer, talking weighing
machine, talking scales, etc. are entirely imported items and did not
attract any taxes earlier.

As for taxes on domestically manufactured items, raw materials like aluminium
extrusions, square tubes and round tubes of aluminium used in the
manufacture of artificial limbs; or many rehabilitation aids were exempt
from the tax regime earlier.

Input tax credit is merely a by-product of the tax channels unification and
weeding out of redundancy and the cascading taxes rife in the previous
system.

What the government’s clarification intentionally misses to mention is that
there is a slab of 0.25% for items like unpolished stones.

If the intent of the government is to protect the domestic industry, as it
seeks to claim, the spiel must be accompanied by concrete steps to help the
Indian manufacturers, build capacity by way of a technology incubator and
extend existing indigenous manufacturers’ scattered production centres into
a nation-wide network of assistive device distribution, customisation and
servicing.

If input tax credit cannot be applied for nil duty goods, we demand these
items be given full input tax credit even if they pay 0 GST. All this
requires is a net transfer from the government to offset the calculated
input tax amount. Ideally, as a sector where the end consumer should not be
additionally burdened, the tax rates of these products must be restored to
the earlier exempt status without forgoing benefits of tax already paid
across the value chain.

NOTE : Linked version and supporting appendices available at
www.bit.ly/whytaxdisability

<http://bit.ly/whytaxdisability>

ENDORSEMENTS (AS OF 10 JULY 2017)

Amba Salelkar, Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice

Bhargav Sundaram, Callidai Motors Works (Accessibility Equipment)

Delhi Viklang Adhikar Manch

Differently-Abled Welfare Federation, Kerala

Dipendra Minocha, DAISY Forum of India

Prof T.M.N. Deepak, December 3rd Movement

Gujarat Viklang Adhikar Manch

Haryana Viklang Adhikar Manch

Jharkhand Viklang Morcha

Karnataka Rajya Angavikalara Mattu Palakara Okkota

Dr. Janaki V, Social Scientist & Researcher

Lakshadweep Disabled Association

Meenakshi B, Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice

Mohammed Asif Iqbal, Consultant

Muralidharan, National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)

National Association of the Blind, Delhi

Nipun Malhotra, Nipman Foundation

Pavan Muntha, Swaadhikar

Platform for Rights of Disabled, Odisha

K. Raghuraman, Karna Vidya Foundation (KYF)

Rajiv Rajan, Ektha

Saksham, Delhi

Dr. Satendra Singh, Infinite Ability, University College of Medical
Sciences

Shankar S, Agate Infotek

Smitha S, Disability Legislative Unit (DLU) South, Vidya Sagar

Adv. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Centre for Accessibility in Built
Environment (CABE, India).

Tamilnadu Assn for the Rights of All Types of Differently-Abled & Caregivers

Tripura Rajya Prathibandi Sammelani

Paschim Banga Rajya Prathibandhi Sammelani, West Bengal

Prof V.S. Sunder, Disability Rights Alliance

Vaishnavi Jayakumar, Disability Rights Alliance

Vikalangula Hakkula Jathiya Vedika, Andhra Pradesh

Vikalangula Hakkula Jathiya Vedika, Telangana

Wheelchair Trust of India

Contact Nos:

1.

V. Muralidharan, NPRD : +919868768543
2.

TMN Deepak, D3M : +919840646953
3.

Vaishnavi Jayakumar, DRA : +919003088388
4.

Dr. Satendra Singh, Infinite Ability : +919971782076

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Comment (1)

  1. K SHESHU BABU

    The levy of tax on many aids used by disabled is pathetic and should be condemned. While the government praises disabled persons, it is making aids costlier to purchase

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