GST: The population factor

The tug of war over the Goods and Services Tax (GST) between the central government and state governments has raised questions on when this system of taxation—which collapses a multitude of taxes into one—will be implemented. When it does, it will change many things, one of which will be how much a state collects by way of taxing goods and services, something that is especially of concern to states with larger industrial bases but smaller populations.

That’s because the basis of GST is different from the basis of the two main taxes it will replace. The first main tax in the present system is excise levied by the Centre: a tax on production, it benefits states with larger industrial bases. The second is VAT (value added tax): a tax on sales levied by states, it benefits states with larger population and consumption.

However, since a company cannot set off the excise paid by it against VAT, states with a higher share of manufacturing collect and retain more taxes than states with a large population and consumption. Basically, the two taxes don’t talk to each other.

GST will change that as it will be levied at the point of consumption, and not production. Thus, prima facie, it will tilt the balance in favour of states with higher population and consumption, even if they don’t have a large industrial base.

So, with GST, which states stand to gain and which stand to lose? This realignment will play out at two levels. Graph 1 below maps three variables at the state level: population (red line), area (blue circle) and tax revenue (green line). The first two are also determinants to calculate a state’s share in GST.

Thus, at the first level, a downward sloping line is indicative of high population states (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal), and they are likely to benefit from GST. An upward sloping line is indicative of states with large industrial bases (Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat), and they could be impacted by the point of sale becoming the point of taxation.

But it’s also true that several states in India with the largest industrial bases (notably, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu) also have a large population and are leaders in per capita income. So, what these states lose in the first-level shift from manufacturing basis to consumption basis might be offset by their own consumption quotient.

The scatter diagram in Graph 2 below plots similar variables as Graph 1 (with the added nuance of tax per capita). So, for example, while a state like Tamil Nadu might lose revenues because of consumption-based taxation, its high tax per capita, an indicator of higher consumption, would offset this.

The net impact of both factors will determine how much a state loses or gains when GST is implemented.

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News in numbers, Mar 4, 2016: Drought impact on Maharashtra, Indian firms’ dividend rush…



What is it? Median return on assets for Indian firms in 2014-15, according to a country report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Why is it important? It has gradually decreased since 2005 (except for an increase in 2010) and was the lowest over the last decade. The report attributes this to “supply side bottlenecks”, especially in the sectors of infrastructure, iron and steel sectors. This shows a divergence between corporate profitability and economic growth, which was recorded as 7.3% in 2013-14, the year in which India surpassed China to become the fastest growing economy in the world.

Tell me more: Two other factors show Indian corporates are likely to take time to get onto the growth path: companies’ heavy dependence on debt to finance growth (their leverage is one of the highest among emerging economies) and their ability to repay debts has fallen.


What is it? Number of major industrial regions in Maharashtra that are facing water shortage due to reallocation of the resource by the state government.

Why is it important? The regions – Thane-Belapur, Raigad-Taloja and Aurangabad – have 13,400 industrial units, of which most are small and medium firms. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, which operates these industrial estates, has cut down water supply as water levels in dams fell to less than 6.5%-50% of their capacity.

Tell me more: Maharashtra’s minister for water resources Girish Mahajan said that due to the drought, the industrial units have to face water shortage as “people and cattle in the affected regions are more important”. Over a third of the state (around 15,000 villages) are facing a severe drought situation.


What is it? Number of companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) that have announced they are considering paying an interim dividend before the end of this month.

Why is it important? This comes within a few days from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s announcement of a 10% tax on an individual, Hindu Undivided Family or firm if their dividend income exceed Rs 10 lakh per annum, in his Budget Speech for 2016-17. The tax is effective from April 1. This is almost double of the number of companies (27) that declared dividends in all of March 2015. A Business Standard report says at least 70 companies have called for board meetings to declare dividends by the end of this month.

Tell me more: Companies are already charged with dividend distribution tax, which effectively comes up to 20.36% including surcharge and cess but the dividend income received by shareholders was exempt from taxes.

Rs 49

What is it? The royalty fee recommended by a government panel for a 450 gm packet of genetically modified cotton seeds, termed Bollgard II by technology provider Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Pvt. Ltd (MMBL).

Why is it important? If this recommendation is accepted, then it would be a 70% reduction from the current royalty fee of Rs 163 per packet. This would benefit around 80 lakh cotton farmers in India but would hit MMBL’s finances, which earned Rs 4,479 crore in royalty fees between 2005-06 and 2014-15. The Indian government is working on a national draft policy on intellectual property rights, which should shed more clarity on price regulations.

Tell me more: Over 90% of cotton grown in India is based on MMBL’s technology, which has been licensed to 49 seed companies in exchange for a royalty fee. The committee has also recommended a maximum sale price of Rs 800 for a 450 gm packet of Bolgard II Bt Cotton seeds, lower than the prices they are being sold in states such as Maharashtra (Rs 830/packet), Telengana and Andhra Pradesh (Rs 930/packet) and Punjab and Haryana (Rs 1,100/packet).

Rs 5,000-Rs 8,000

What is it? Cost of a chopper ride from Bengaluru airport to one’s home or office in the city, to be offered by private travel operator, JetSetGo, which is backed by Puneet Dalmia (managing director of cement major Dalmia Bharat Group).

Why is it important? The city was ranked the sixth worst in IBM’s Commuter Pain Index in 2011 and this meant $6 billion worth of man-hours spent in traffic. The service might find takers among high-flying executives who can cut down the travel time by a fourth to 23 minutes the airport to the city. Bengaluru is home to IT majors Wipro and Infosys and unicorns such as Flipkart and Ola. The city has 6,700 high net worth individuals, according to the Asia Pacific 2016 Wealth Report.

Tell me more: JetSetGo plans to start its test flights in April and launch its services by the end of monsoon season this year. The company has already been running private shuttle services between Mumbai and Delhi thrice a week.

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