Economic survey highlights buoyant GST collections courtesy rate rationalisation, MSMEs resurgence, digitalisation, e-way bills

Economic Survey 2022-23 highlights that the gross GST collections increased at 24.8% on YoY basis from April to December 2022 thus, GST has “evolved and stabilised as a vital revenue source for central and state governments”; Survey highlights that introduction of GST, with its end-to-end digitisation of all processes, tax administration, have improved governance and formalisation of the economy and seamless generations of e-way bills and electronic toll collections have augmented better tax collections for Government and curbed tax evasion; GST led to better reporting of income, which in turn has positive externalities for income tax collection, report further mentions that consistent efforts have resulted in a doubling of the GST net, with the number of GST taxpayers increasing from nearly 70 lakh in 2017 to more than 1.4 crore in 2022; Amidst unprecedented external shocks during the first 5 years of implementation of GST, Survey deems that GST played a role in safeguarding the States’ revenues from the initial teething troubles of a new tax system and has also protected the States’ finances; Statistics reveal that “In absence of GST, Indian States would have had no recourse to compensation, nor could they have contemplated augmenting their revenues through fresh and/or higher levies during a pandemic.”; Addressing the elephant in the room “Has the shift to GST improved or worsened the buoyancy of India’s indirect tax system?”, Survey envisages that improved tax collection efficiency was one of the main arguments in favour of GST; Thus, records that  “The evidence so far suggests that GST is indeed showing a higher buoyancy than the pre-GST system. This augurs well for future resource mobilisation in the economy.”; GST collections have grown at a CAGR of 10.9 per cent even though the effective GST rate has fallen from inception (14.4% in 2017 to 11.6% in 2019, according to RBI); Further, its pointed out that seamless generations of e-way bills and electronic toll collections have improved ease of doing business; On payment of GST compensation to States, the report apprises that cess payments and tax devolution instalments to the States were frontloaded to give them early access to funds and mentions that during FY23, GoI released ₹1.16 lakh crore towards total GST compensation and that despite unsufficient Cess collection, the Centre released the balance from its resources; Survey records other humongous fiscal developments while giving credit to rapid economic recovery post-pandemic, the nationwide drive against GST evaders and fake bills along with many systemic changes introduced recently, and various rate rationalisation measures undertaken by the GST Council to correct inverted duty structure; From MSME standpoint, highlights that rise in GST paid by them has crossed pre-pandemic level of FY20, reflecting the financial resilience of small businesses and the effectiveness of the pre-emptive government intervention targeted towards MSMEs; Report mentions that high imports during the current year have led to a 12.4% YoY growth from April to November 2022 which is higher than the average growth during the corresponding period from FY13 to FY19:  Economic Survey 2022-23