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What is GST (Goods & Service Tax)? All You Need to Know

  • Highlights

  • Get to know GST tax slabs

  • Learn about the GST registration process

  • View the current GST rates in India

  • Learn how to calculate GST

GST Information, Meaning & Definition

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an indirect tax levied on the supply of goods and services. The Goods and Service Tax Act was passed in the Parliament on 29th March 2017 and the GST tax came into effect on 1st July 2017. GST brings uniformity in taxation and has replaced many indirect taxes in India.

Goods and Service Tax is a comprehensive, destination-based tax with multi-stage levy on every value addition. Understand it with the help of following explanation.

  • Destination-based: The GST tax is collected at the point of consumption irrespective of the concerned good’s place of manufacture, production or supply.

  • Multi-stage: GST India is levied at each stage of the supply chain, i.e., from raw material purchase to manufacture, and sale to wholesaler, retailer and end-user.

  • Value added levy: Every monetary value added to a product or service at each stage until the completion of final sale to the consumer is taxed under GST.

GST Explained

Let’s delve a little deeper to understand the system of taxation before and after GST (Goods and Service Tax)

What Was the Previous System of Taxation?

Prior to GST rates being finalised, the Centre and the State in their own merit and under their laid-out laws and systems calculated and charged taxes on a commodity or service depending upon multiple stages of taxation. At each node of the economic ecosystem, services or goods were subjected to independent variable taxes based on the destination and stage of the product in question. For example, VAT or Value-Added Tax, was collected by each state in India individually on your purchases of goods and services.

There were two issues with this consumption tax: Firstly, the percentage of this tax varied from state to state. Secondly, the tax you paid was levied on the cost of goods or services, after subtracting the cost of previously taxed materials or services. This garnered a lot of confusion and often led to double taxation.

Additional Read: Taxes Replaced by GST

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Why Was GST Implemented?

GST (Goods & Service Tax) was adopted to improve the collection of taxes at every nodal point and to integrate the country through a uniform GST tax rate. By removing the lengthy list of indirect taxes levied individually by the states and the center, the Indian economy would also receive a significant boost. GST was implemented after these four bills were passed by the government: Goods and Services Tax Bill, Integrated GST Bill, Compensation GST Bill, and Union Territory GST Bill.

What Are the Main Tenets of the GST Bill?

Goods and Service Tax (GST) was brought into action to reform the entire taxation system followed in India. The objective of GST bill is to offer a simplified system for taxpayers, both consumers and suppliers alike. According to the Finance Minister of India, Mr. Arun Jaitley, this simplified system will also help keep inflation in check. Moreover, GST addresses the lack of uniformity in various taxes applicable on different commodities and services in different states. By fixing the GST rates on goods and services depending on which category they come under, GST has made taxation more consistent and uncomplicated.

GST follows a 4-tier tax slab since the government found it unjustified to levy uniform tax rates on both necessities and luxuries. Thus, the GST tax slabs applicable to commodities and services in India are 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. The regular commodities for mass consumption such as food grain, eggs, jaggery, salt, bread, etc., do not attract any taxation. Other commonly used commodities such as soaps, tea, sugar, spices, and toothpaste attract 12%-18% tax, which is lower than the earlier rate of more than 20%.

What Are the Advantages of GST?

The vital benefits of GST are:
- It consolidates several different taxes into one
- It abolishes the cascading tax effect
- It reforms Indian taxation and represents the country as a common national market
- It helps make Indian goods, commodities, and services more competitive in the global as well as the local markets

Additionally, GST updates the present taxation system by removing an exhaustive list of direct taxes from the system and simplifies the taxation system with only three components of Goods & Service Tax (GST): CGST, SGST, and IGST.

Additional Read: GST Advantages and Disadvantages

Here is the list of the earlier direct taxes that are no longer applicable:
- Central Excise Duty
- Duties of Excise
- Additional Duties of Excise
- Additional Duties of Customs
- Special Additional Duty of Customs
- Cess
- State VAT
- Central Sales Tax
- Purchase Tax
- Luxury Tax
- Entertainment Tax
- Entry Tax
- Taxes on advertisements
- Taxes on lotteries, betting, and gambling

Additional Read: Small Business Tax Savings Strategies

GST Registration

To benefit from Goods & Service Tax (GST), you will need to register for it. Here is how you can register for GST.

GST Application Process

GST registration is compulsory for any and every individual and company who is engaged in the supply of good and services to register for it. The good news is you can register from the comfort of your home on the GST registration portal following a few easy steps.

- Log on to www.gst.gov.in registration portal
- From the menu on the page choose ‘Services’, click on it and select ‘Registration’
- Choose ‘New Registration’ to begin the Part A of the new GST registration process
- When a new page appears, select your status as GST practitioner or a tax payer
- Once the form opens, fill up the form with details such as the legal name of the business, the district and state for the business, email address, mobile number, PAN, etc.
- A successful submission of the details will take you to the verification stage; enter the OTP you receive and click ‘Proceed’.
- On successful verification, you will receive a Temporary Reference Number, which you will need to use to continue Part B of the new GST registration process.
- Enter this number and the Captcha Code to begin Part B.
- Once you start on this second stage of the registration, your previous application form opens with new and different tabs. These include Business Details, Authorised Signatory, Promoter/Partners, Authorised Representative, Principal Place of Business, Additional Places of Business, Bank Accounts, Goods and Services, State Specific Information and Verification. Click on each of these tabs to enter the required details and then choose ‘Save & Continue’ to proceed.
- At this stage, you will be prompted to fill in information regarding your bank account and upload a few documents.
- Now you will be asked to add your digital signatures on your completed application. You can do this using EVC, E-Signature, or Digital Signature Certificate. Companies and LLPs can use only Digital Signature Certificates.
- After this is done, click the ‘Submit’ option and all your updated details along with the uploaded documents will be saved.
- As a second stage of verification you will be required to sign within a pop-up window.
- Once done, your application will be submitted and an acknowledgment will be sent to your registered mobile number and email in the form of a reference number.

Additional Read: How to Register For GST Online

GST Login for Existing Users

www.gst.gov.in is a government website, which is the GST Login Portal for various taxpayers.

Access your account at the GST Login portal in a few simple steps as an existing user. The portal simplifies GST payment for users via challan creation. Also, check other details related to the GSTIN allotted to you like orders or notices at the GST portal after you log in. Keep your username and password ready to log in conveniently. In case the password is lost, retrieve it with the help of ‘Forgot Password’ option provided on the page to log in.

Steps for GST Login

  • 1. Visit www.gst.gov.in
    Step 1

  • 2. On the top right side, the “Login” feature is available.
    Step 2

  • 3. Enter your existing username and password on GST login portal.

  • 4. Enter the captcha code and press the login button.

  • 5. After that, you will be re-directed to the below dashboard
    Step 5

  • 6. Click on “Continue”

Documents Required for GST Registration

List of Documents Required for GST Registration:

1. PAN card for your business


2. Proof of Business Registration

In case of proprietors, you do not have to submit this document. In case of a partnership firm, the partnership deed is a must.

3. Address proof for your business

You can submit any of the following documents for GST as a proof of the business address.
- Latest property tax receipt/Municipal khata copy/Electricity bill is you own the property of business
- Rental or lease agreement for rented business space
- The documents/certificates issued by the Government for Special Economic Zones (SEZs)

4. Identity and address proof of company promoters

All the owners and partners of the company are required to submit their individual Aadhaar Card, PAN, Voter ID, Ration Card, etc.

5. Bank account statement

You can submit a scanned copy of the first page of your company’s bank passbook or a cancelled cheque for the same account.

Once all your documents are in order, your submission will be reviewed by a GST personnel who is in charge of verification. After thorough verification, your application will either be approved and you will be issued a GST number or it will be rejected based on incomplete documentation or application error. You can validate your submission at this stage to get a clearance on your application.

Additional Read: How to apply for PAN Card Online

What Will Happen If You Do Not Register and Pay GST?

What will happen if you do not register and pay GST? You are liable to a penalty of 10% of your tax amount, subject to a minimum of Rs.10,000 in case you fail to register and pay GST. In case you are found to be deliberately withholding GST payments, then a 100% penalty will be levied on your tax amount.

Calculating GST

Now that you know how to pay GST, here’s some clarity on how to calculate GST.

How to Calculate GST?

GST (Goods and Service Tax) in India is calculated as a sum total of GST payable on reverse charge, inward supplies, and output supplies. This total is derived individually for every month and you will have to pay the amount calculated while filing GST returns on a monthly basis.

As a taxpayer, you will have to consider all aspects and charges such as reverse charge, exempted supplies, inter-state sales along with eligible and non-eligible ITC while calculating GST. Calculating the right GST amount will help you evade the 18% interest that will be levied in case your payment falls short of your actual obligation.

You can also use the GST calculator available with government of India’s GST portal to find out your total tax liability by filling in all the necessary amounts under the mentioned heads such as return filing month, current ledger balance, tax liability under RCM, etc.

How to Use a GST Calculator to Know Your Liability Value

Instead of calculating the GST applicable on the services or commodity you are providing manually, you can use the GST calculator to arrive at the total figure for your GST. The calculator is available on most financial websites. Doing the calculation via the calculator will leave no scope for miscalculation and you will be able to determine GST based on the cost of products and services.

Formula for GST Calculation:

GST Amount = (Original Price x GST Rate) / 100
Net Price = Original Price + GST Amount
Example: Say you are selling a commodity from Mumbai and sending it to Kolkata for Rs.10,000, and the rate of GST applied on it is 12%.
The GST amount applicable for it will be (10,000 x 12) / 100 = Rs.1,200; and the net price will be Rs.10,000 + Rs.1,200 = Rs.11,200.

GST Rates in India

Goods and services have been categorised under the basic GST slabs of 5%, 12%, 18%, and 28%. But, GST rates are not applicable to goods and services for mass consumption which includes the following:

Jute, fish, eggs, fresh meat, milk, chicken, curd, fresh fruits, butter milk, vegetables, natural honey, bread, salt, besan, prasad, sindoor, printed books, bindi, judicial papers, newspapers, handloom, bangles, horn cores, bone meal, bone grist, horn meal, hoof meal, palmyra jaggery, hulled cereal grains, colouring and drawing books, etc.

Here is a list of goods and services that are considered under the varied GST tax slabs.

GST Rates on Goods

Goods with 5% GST Goods with 12% GST Goods with 18% GST Goods with 28% GST
Agarbatti Almonds Aluminium foil furniture Aerated water
Apparels up to Rs.1,000 Animal fat sausage Bamboo After shave
Braille paper Apparel above Rs.1000 Bidi Patta Aircraft for personal use
Braille typewriters Ayurvedic medicines Biscuits Automobiles Motorcycles
Braille watches Bhujia Branded garments Bidis
Cashew nuts Butter Cakes Ceramic tiles
Coir mats Cake servers Camera Chewing gum Molasses
Domestic LPG Carom board CCTV Chocolates devoid of cocoa
Edible oils Chess board Circuits Deodorants
Fertilisers Chutney computers Dishwasher
First day covers Diagnostic kits and reagents Corn Dye
Fish fillet Exercise books Curry paste Hair clippers
Floor covering Fish knives Electrical transformer Hair shampoo Sunscreen
Footwear up to Rs.500 Forks Envelopes Paint
Frozen vegetables Frozen meat products Flavoured refined sugar Pan masala
Hearing aids Fruit juice Footwear priced above Rs.500 Shavers
Insulin Fruits Hair oil Shaving creams
Matting Ghee Ice cream Vacuum cleaner
Medicines Glasses for corrective spectacles and flint buttons Instant food mixes Vending machines
Milk food for babies Jelly Kajal pencil sticks Waffles and wafers coated with chocolate Wallpaper
Packaged food items Jam Mayonnaise Washing machine
Packed paneer Ladles Mineral water Water heater
Pizza bread Ludo Mixed condiments Weighing machine ATM 
Postage stamps Mobile Mixed seasonings  
Revenue stamps Murabba Monitors  
Roasted coffee beans Namkeen Optical Fiber  
Rusk Non-AC restaurants Padding pools  
Sabudana Notebooks Swimming pools  
Skimmed milk Nuts Pasta  
Stamp-post marks Packed coconut water Preserved vegetables  
Stent Pickle printed  
Sugar Playing cards Printers  
Tea  Preparations of vegetables Salad dressings  
  Sewing machine Soap  
  Skimmers Soups  
  State-run lotteries Speakers  
  Tongs Steel products  
  Tooth powder Tampons  
  Umbrella Tissues  
  Work contracts  Toiletries  
    Weighing machinery (non-electrical or electronic)  

GST Rates on Services

Services with 5% GST Services with 12% GST Services with 18% GST Services with 28% GST
Transport services such as airways and railways Air tickets by business class AC hotels serving alcohol to customers Gambling and race club betting
Air travel in economy Guest houses, inns, and hotels with room tariff ranging between Rs.1000 and Rs.2500 per night  Guest houses, inns and hotels with room tariff ranging from Rs.2500 and Rs.5000 per night Cinema and entertainment
Sale of advertisement space for print media   IT services 5-star hotels
Supply of tour operators’ services   Telecom services  Guest houses, inns and hotels with room tariff of Rs.5000 and above
Road transport by radio taxis and motor cabs      
Small restaurants earning turnover up to Rs.50 lakhs       

What is GST Rate on Transportation?

GTA (Goods Transport Agency) service providers are required to pay Goods and Services Tax under the reverse charge mechanism at the following specified GST rates on transportation.

  • i. 5% equally split into CGST and SGST if they do not claim ITC on goods/services utilised as an input in providing the transportation service.
  • ii. 12% equally split into CGST and SGST when claiming ITC on goods/services utilised as an input in supplying their service.

GST Filing

When to File GST Returns?

When do I have to file GST (Goods & Service Tax)? Under the GST system, all regular businesses have to file three monthly returns and one annual return. Even though this means you file a total of 37 returns in a year, the most positive aspect of this system is that you are required to manually feed in the details pertaining to your income, services, vendors, etc. only once when you are filing return for the first time.

The second time onwards, the information is auto-populated based on the previous return you and your vendors submitted. As per GST updates put on www.gst.gov.in, make a note of the following revised dates to file your GST on time.

Return Form Frequency Due Date
GSTR 1 Monthly 11th* of the next month with effect from October 2018
GSTR-3B Monthly 20th of the next month
GSTR-4 Quarterly 18th of the month subsequent quarter
GSTR-5 Monthly 20th of the next month
GSTR-6 Monthly 13th of the next month
GSTR-7 Monthly 10th of the next month
GSTR-8 Monthly 10th of the next month
GSTR-9 Annually 31st December of next financial year

Frequently Asked Questions about Filing GST


Do I Have to File GST If I Am a Freelancer or Have a Home Business?

Yes! Providing taxable services to clients in any form as the owner of a small business or as a freelancer entails you to file GST (Goods and Service Tax). If you are a freelancer selling software services then unlike the past taxation system, you will be exempted of the cascading effect of service taxes and VAT. Instead, you will enjoy more of a breather with GST being your only obligation. However, as a freelancer you can enjoy a basic exemption if your turnover is within Rs.20 lakh.

Can I File GST Returns Online?

Yes, you can file GST returns online in two ways. Either use your registered account on the www.gst.gov.in portal or file GST via reliable accounting software. The GST portal will automatically show your next return under the 'Things to do' tab when it is time for you to file again. The software, on the other hand, will have all your data saved from the previous times, which will make it easier and quicker to file the next GST returns. So, keep a tab of the return dates and set a reminder to file GST on a timely basis.

Additional Read: Best GST Software in India

How Do I File GST Returns?

You can file various types of GST returns every month. As per the CGST Act, 2017, apart from the common returns such as GSTR 1, GSTR 2, and GSTR 3, you will even have to file an annual return. If you are registered under the GST Composition Scheme then you will have to file your returns on a quarterly basis along with the annual GST return. You will have to either take the direct route or apply file GST online or use download the GST forms and fill them offline and then upload them to file GST.

The Forms That You Will Need to Fill up to File GST Returns Are:

GST PCT 1: Application for enrolling as a Goods and Service Tax practitioner
GST PCT 2: Application for Enrolment Certificate for Goods and Service Tax practitioner
GST PCT 3: Show cause notice for disqualification
GST PCT 4: Order of rejection of application for enrolment as GST practitioner/or disqualification to function as a GST practitioner
GST PCT 5: Authorisation/withdrawal of authorisation of a Goods and Service Tax practitioner

What happens if I fail to file my GST returns?

Filing GST returns on time will ensure that you get timely refunds and it will help you avoid penalties arising from delays. Further if you fail to file your GST return on time then a fine is levied as penalty on your total liability. However, The GST Council has announced relaxed filing of GST Returns for the first six months. Penalty levied as late fees for not filing GSTR-1 is Rs.200 per day of delay (Rs.100 as per CGST Act and Rs.100 as per SGST Act). The delay is calculated from the next day after the due date. However, as per the latest GST news, the late fees have been reduced to Rs.50 per day and Rs.20 per day respectively when you file a nil return.

Impact of GST

What is the Impact of GST on Indian Economy?

After 11 years of implementation hurdles, GST’s introduction in 2017 restructured the indirect tax structure in India. Its benefits to the economy extend substantially via –

  • Uniformity in taxation.

  • Improved efficiency in logistics management due to reduced paperwork.

  • Transparency in tax levy and collection.

  • Reduction of indirect tax burden and increased accessibility to essential items for commoners due to efficient distribution of goods and services under various tax slabs, from 0% GST tax rate to 28%.

  • Proving helpful in strengthening small businesses via setting up turnover threshold of Rs.40 lakh for GST India levy.

  • Reduction in compliance burden for small businesses via composition levy for GST services and goods.

What Is the Financial Impact of GST on My Business?

Goods and Service Tax (GST) increases the ease of doing business and based on the flexible taxation parameters set out since July 2017, GST will minimise your interactions with tax officials and maximise your independence as a business owner. This will financially strengthen your way of doing business by stopping you from paying hefty amounts for unethical tax practices to get your work done. Additionally, your earlier financial obligations towards VAT, Central State Tax, Excise, Octroi, and other cesses have been completely demolished. This will now allow you to save at least 32% of your revenue, which as a manufacturer, you may have lost paying varied taxes in the past.

Additional Read: Impact of GST On Small Business

How Much Extra Working Capital Will I Need?

If you are running a service-based business then unlike past taxation slabs, you will now have to pay 18% as GST. So, this will obviously need you to build at least 3% more working capital strength as compared to earlier 15% taxation. However, if you are in a manufacturing business maintaining warehouses at different parts of the country, then under GST system you will benefit by saving on your tax obligations. This is because in the past you had to pay state levied taxes at several checkpoints while distributing your readymade goods, pay VAT on import-export duties, and pay CST based on the state rates for where you were selling your goods. However, now the simpler GST system allows you to save on your capital.

Additional Read: Impact of GST on Working Capital

Do I Have to Pay GST out of My Own Pocket?

GST is an indirect tax and unlike your personal Income Tax you do not have to pay GST from your own pocket. You charge your customers GST on the services or goods they avail and purchase from you. You simply collect these taxes paid by them on what you offer and submit it to the government. But, you need to follow a stringent calculation for this as your GST amount is determined based on your sales and other coefficients. In addition, your invoice to your customers will carry the GST rate you are taxing them on based on their actual purchase.

What Happens If I Don't Have Enough Money to Pay GST?

This means that you are stuck with dues based on the services you have provided. However, once you register on the GST portal then as per the GST law, the filing of returns without payment of taxes will not be considered. This means that unless you have paid the self-assessed tax in full and filed your return and your vendors have also filed their return, the ITC or input tax credit for your vendor will not be confirmed.

Additional Read: How To Save Tax On Salary

Thus, it is important to keep a tab on the latest GST news from time to time, follow a strict regime to file GST and charge your customers the right amount as well.

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