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Discounts planned for consumers who seek bills at shops

April 15, 2019 06:00 AM

courtesy  HT APRIL 15

rajeev Jayaswal
Discounts planned for consumers who seek bills at shops

NEW DELHI: The Union government plans to offer cash incentives or discounts to consumers who seek bills for purchases of goods and services from dealers, as part of attempts to expand the Goods and Services Tax (GST) base and increase compliance, according to two officials familiar with the matter.

Better compliance, leading to enhanced collections, is being seen as the way forward for the indirect tax regime that was introduced in July 2017, and the proposed move is in line with that, the officials added.

No major policy announcement is expected immediately due to the ongoing general elections. But the GST-related proposals are being processed in advance so that the new government can take a view expeditiously after the counting of votes on May 23.

One of the officials cited above said that under the proposed move, consumers may be offered discounts amounting to a certain percentage of the total value of the invoice. This will give consumers an incentive to ask for bills. The quantum of incentives is yet to be determined, said the official who asked not to be named.

The second official said that the discounts may also be offered upfront or get credited into the accounts of the consumers if the payments are made through digital modes, including debit and credit cards. This will also encourage digital payments, and have a ripple effect on business units outside the GST net, he added.

The government has been promoting digital payments after banning high-value currency notes in November 2016 as part of efforts to curb black economy.

The Union finance ministry and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) did not respond to an email with queries about the proposed incentives.

“This will lead to a further formalisation of the unorganised sectors as they will need to report their purchases also in order to make a taxable sale invoice,” said MS Mani, partner at professional services firm Deloitte India. “Is this democracy?” Naidu asked.

On the day of voting, several people had taken to social media saying they were unable to vote because of EVM malfunction or because their names had allegedly been deleted from the voter rolls.

Naidu said that the opposition parties would go for a fresh petition or a review petition. He said the results should be announced after counting 50 % of VVPAT. “Why are the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] and its allies opposing the decision? They have to answer now. Why is the election commission not acting impartially? Ultimately, We are left with the court. Again, we will appeal to the court. We will ask the Supreme Court to do justice, to save democracy,” Naidu said.

The BJP dismissed these concerns and asked if EVMs were inaccurate then how the Congress won recent elections in the Hindi heartland. “It is a very convenient excuse to blame it on the machine. Now there is a paper record in addition to electronic record which gives confidence to the voting process. These parties are indulging in collective self-deception. They have a problem only when they are losing. In the just concluded Andhra Pradesh elections, nearly 3 crore people voted and no one complained that the paper trail was not working properly. These attempts at questioning the voting process are just bogus attempts to find excuses,” said BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao.

To be sure, in a press conference the night of April 11, the poll watchdog had said the percentage of EVM units replaced was 0.73 %, the percentage of EVM control units replaced was 0.61% and the percentage of VVPATs replaced was 1.70%. In the Supreme Court, the EC had said that increasing the number of VVPATs would increase the role of manual counting, thereby leading to errors, and that it would lead to a logistical delay in counting and declaring the results.

“If you can see your cell phones, every six months you change it because the technology is changing. But here, for the last so many years, the same EVMs [have been used],” added Naidu. “We are raising doubts about the EVMs. The confidence of the voter can only be restored through paper trail machines.”

He met chief election commissioner Sunil Arora on Saturday but indicated that the meeting did not yield a resolution. EVMs were first used for a nationwide election in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

In a letter to the TDP’s legal cell on Saturday after the meeting, the EC said it did not find appropriate to interact with the one of the technical experts the TDP team presented — Hari Prasad — who the poll watchdog said was “involved in a criminal case regarding alleged theft of EVM machine in 2010”. The EC further said that any other expert in the field was free to interact on Monday.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party accused the EC of not paying heed to the complaints of EVM manipulation. “The machines are not faulty but they are programmed like that. When they are detected, it is said the machine was faulty. It cannot be that every time a machine was found faulty, the votes invariably go to BJP. I am an engineer, understand technology. Have you ever seen TVs or refrigerators developing faults on such a scale?” Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said EVMs could be manipulated and it could even be demonstrated. “We will need a machine for it,” he said. The government and the EC have both denied that EVMs can be hacked, and the poll watchdog even held a so-called hackathon in 2017.

Naidu also accused the EC of inaccuracies in its affidavit to the apex court, and pointed out that a number of developed countries – such as Germany and the Netherlands – had gone back to paper ballots.

“They are saying [it will take] six days to count an assembly segment. Is it fair? We were in paper ballot. It used to take 12 hours to 18 hours, or maximum 24 hours. I contested first election in 1978, only paper ballots. It is very simple also. It is a simple slip, at the top name of the candidate and symbol. You want to segregate, it is not much time. You can also count at the same time, it is very easy

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