India becomes latest country to scrap tax on sanitary towels

Posted July 23, 2018

After a nine-hour meeting of the GST Council, chaired by acting finance minister Piyush Goyal, the government on Saturday chose to exempt GST on sanitary napkins; deities made of stone, marble or wood; Raakhis without precious metals; raw materials used in brooms; commemorative coins; fortified milk; and the premium paid under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme.

Sanitary napkins, which attract 12 per cent tax, and fortified milk, which was taxed at 18 per cent, have been exempt from the new indirect tax.

The announcement comes a year after the government introduced the tax, known as GST, on all goods - including the 12% duty on menstrual hygiene products.

The return will have two tables - one for reporting outward supplies and one for availing of input tax credit based on invoices uploaded by the supplier.

Among items on which GST was reduced include footwear, small televisions, water heater, electric ironing machines, refrigerators, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, food appliances and ethanol.

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These amendments will now be placed before Parliament and the legislature of the state and Union territories for carrying out the amendments in the respective GST acts, the minister said.

The GST on sanitary pads has been cut from 12 per cent to zero.

Goyal asserted on the importance of reducing the tax on ethanol, as not only is it used for blending with petrol and diesel, it is also vital for the sugar industry, and will thus be very beneficial for the sugarcane farmers.

"The broad level reductions in rates could lead to lower tax collections", said M S Mani, partner at consulting firm Deloitte India.

Last year, lawmaker Sushmita Dev launched a petition to demand a reduction or total removal of taxes on pads, citing that about 70 percent of women in India could not afford them. He said, the decisions taken today will be applicable from 27th of this month.

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Asked about the revenue impact of the tax rate cut, Goyal said it will only be "nominal".

Australia also continues to apply a tax while Ireland and Kenya are among the nations to have abolished taxes on sanitary products.

The Council also decided that taxpayers with turnover up to '5 crore will continue to pay monthly tax, but file returns only once a quarter.

Other than sanitary napkins, rakhi too has been made GST free.

"Special meeting of GST council will be held on 4 August in Delhi that will be focussed on MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises ) sector, " Goyal said. Around 90 consumer items, many of them popular with urban middle-class voters, will be impacted by the tax cut.

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