Value-Added Tax (VAT)

VAT is a tax that is levied on services and goods and is paid to the government by producers although the actual tax is levied from the end-user or consumers who purchase the services and goods. This is important for GDP.

Taxation refers to the process of an authority levying certain charges on goods, services and transactions. It is one of the foremost powers held by the government of any country. Various types of taxes are applicable at various stages of the sale of goods and services; VAT is one such tax.

All about VAT in India
VAT in India

What is VAT or Value Added Tax?

VAT is a kind of tax levied on the sale of goods and services when these commodities are ultimately sold to the consumer. VAT is an integral part of the GDP of any country. While VAT is levied on the sale of goods and services and paid by producers to the government, the actual tax is levied from customers or end-users who purchase these goods and services. Thus, it is an indirect tax which is paid to the government by customers but via producers of goods and services.

VAT is a multi-stage tax that is levied at each step of production of goods and services which involves sale/purchase. Any person earning an annual turnover of more than Rs.5 lakh by supplying goods and services is liable to register for VAT payment. Value-added tax or VAT is levied both on local as well as imported goods.

VAT Rates in India

The implementation guidelines and rules of Value Added Tax vary from state to state as the tax is collected by state governments. VAT in India is categorized under 4 heads which are as follows:

  1. Nil: Goods and services that fall under this category are exempt from VAT. These are mainly items that are basic and sold in the unorganized sector. Examples of such items include khadi, salt, etc.
  2. 1%: VAT is charged at 1% for the items under this category. 1% VAT is usually charged on relatively expensive items. The reason why VAT is charged at 1% on expensive goods is that increasing the rate of VAT will considerably increase the prices of the items that fall under this category. Some of the examples of products that fall under this category include gold, silver, precious stones, etc.
  3. 4-5%: VAT is charged at 4% to 5% on certain items that are used on a daily basis. Examples of items that attract VAT at 4-5% include cooking oil, tea, medicines, etc.
  4. General: Items that fall under the general category attract VAT at 12% to 15. The items that fall under this category are mainly luxury items such as cigarettes, alcohol, etc.

How is VAT Calculated?

VAT is actually calculated as the difference between input tax and output tax.

VAT = Output Tax – Input Tax

Where output tax is the tax received by the seller for the sale of his goods and services and input tax is the tax paid by the seller for raw materials required to manufacture his goods and services.

VAT Example

Suppose Ram owns a restaurant and spends Rs.50,000 towards obtaining raw materials. Input tax is 10%, so input tax becomes 10% of Rs.50,000 = Rs.5,000

Now after selling the food made by using the purchased raw materials, Ram was able to make Rs.1,00,000. Supposing 10% output tax, output tax becomes Rs.10,000

So, final VAT payable by Ram comes out to be Rs.10,000 – Rs.5,000 = Rs.5,000

Why is VAT required and how is it useful?

India was one of the last few countries to introduce VAT as a form of tax. The taxation process in India was believed to be exploited the most by businessmen and enterprises which had found loopholes for evading taxes. VAT was introduced to minimize this evasion and render transparency and uniformity to the tax payment process.

Value Added Tax is levied in multiple stages of the production of goods and services and comes under the purview of various state governments. Hence, VAT in India might slightly differ from one state to another.

  • No exemptions under the VAT system. Levying tax at each stage of the production process ensures better compliance and fewer loopholes to be exploited
  • VAT, when enforced properly forms an important instrument for tax consolidation of the country and as such helps towards solving the fiscal deficit issue to some extent
  • Since, VAT is a globally accepted taxation system, it will help India integrate better into global trade practices

VAT Registration

VAT registration is mandatory for enterprises that make a turnover of more than Rs.5 lakh by selling goods and services. All such enterprises are required to register in their respective states of operation. Registering for VAT is necessary for enterprises to start paying VAT. On registration, each trader is given a unique 11-digit registration number which is used for all communication regarding VAT and its filing.

  • Who should register for VAT?
  • Any firm making a turnover of more than Rs.5 lakh per annum is required to register for VAT payment.

  • Documents required for VAT registration:
  • Following is the list of documents that needs to be submitted while registering for VAT.

    • Copy of PAN card
    • Address proof of business
    • Proof of identity of promoters
    • Additional security deposit or surety
  • How much time does it take to register for VAT?
  • Generally, state governments take around 15-20 days to complete the process of registration. This time may differ from one state to another.

How to register for VAT online?

Given below are the steps you will have to follow to register for VAT online in India:

  1. Visit the official website of VAT and click on the registration tab.
  2. Enter all the relevant details and upload the necessary documents.
  3. If you are registering on behalf of a corporation then you will be provided with a temporary VAT number.
  4. Once your application form and documents provided are verified successfully, you will be provided a permanent VAT number.

VAT Collection in India

The process of collection of VAT can be safely categorized into two broad heads based on the method of collection of value added tax.

  • Account-based collection of VAT
  • Under the account-based method of collection, sale receipts are not used, instead, tax is calculated on the value added. Value added is calculated as the difference between revenues and allowable purchases.

  • Invoice-based collection of VAT
  • Under the invoice-based VAT collection, sale receipts or invoice is used to compute the corresponding VAT. Traders when they sell their goods and services offer invoices containing separate details of VAT collected. Most countries in the world today use the invoice-based method of VAT collection.

    Another way to categorize VAT collection is to classify it based on the timing of collection.

  • Accrual-based collection of VAT
  • Accrual-based collection matches the revenue with the period during which it is earned and matches the cost of raw materials and expenses to the time during which they were made. This method is extremely complicated as compared to the cash-based collection of VAT. However, it also throws substantial light on information about any business.

  • Cash-based collection of VAT
  • Cash-based accounting is simpler than accrual-based calculation. Emphasis is laid on the cash that is being handled instead of whether all the bills are paid. Whenever a payment is received, that date is recorded as the date of receipt of funds.

VAT Returns

VAT returns have to be filed by businesses that have an annual turnover that is Rs.5 lakhs or higher. VAT is payable on all goods and services that are domestic or imported. VAT returns can be filed traditionally by filling and submitting the required paperwork to the appropriate authorities. It can also be filed online if registered under the VAT Act 2003 using the provided user id and password.

VAT Implementation in Various State of India

Since enforcement of VAT and collection of it comes under the purview of state governments, different states have different VAT rules and implementation guidelines. Hence, the procedure for tax implementation, rates of VAT, timelines for VAT payment and VAT return filing, all differ from one state to another.

Despite state-specific implementations, VAT in India can be divided into four main subheads.

  • NIL VAT Rate:

    In a lot of states items that are very basic in nature are sold without levying any VAT on them. These items are mostly those sold by the unorganized sector in their most basic or natural form. Examples of these type of items are salt, khadi, condoms etc.

  • 1% VAT Rate:

    For items which tend to be highly expensive, the percentage of VAT applicable needs to be kept low since otherwise the VAT levied could be too high an amount. For such items, VAT is kept as low as 1%. Gold, silver and other precious stones as well as precious jewelry fall under this category of goods. Most Indian states have fixed VAT for these items at 1% of the amount.

  • 4-5% VAT Rate:

    A large number of daily consumption goods have been put by several state governments under this category of VAT. So VAT charged on goods like oil, coffee, medicines etc. is around 4-5% for most states in India.

  • General VAT Rate:

    General VAT rates apply to goods which cannot be segregated and put under any of the above listed VAT categories. For goods like liquor, cigarettes etc. many governments charge high VAT rates of 12.5% or 14-15%. Also, many state governments follow a general rate of VAT for goods which cannot be categorized to suit the above classification. Such goods are taxed at 12%, 13% or even 15% in different states.

How does VAT help trade, consumers, and government?

  • Trade: Trade is enhanced due to VAT’s uniform rates. A taxpayer is not required to visit the tax department officer on conducting a 100% self-assessment.
  • Consumers: Consumers have to pay less price for items if tax on those goods are removed.
  • Government: Since the self-assessment is conducted by the dealers under VAT, there are less resources required for the overall assessment process which allows the government to focus on collection of tax rather than worry about the administrative process.

How is VAT different from Sales Tax

  • VAT is computed on each stage of the sales of good and is completely different from sales tax as tax is collected from both producer and consumer. In case of sales tax, it is only the consumer who pays the tax.
  • In case of VAT, fewer rates are levied, while for sales tax, a higher rate is implemented.
  • On claiming input tax under VAT ensures that the invoicing is proper.

Why pay VAT when sales tax is already being levied by government?

VAT and sales tax have different purposes and hence are kept separate. While sales tax calculation is an easy process, VAT is a multi-level process and a more complex form of tax. Sales tax is simply calculated as a percentage of the final selling price of goods and services and is levied from customers at the time of purchase of goods and services.

Some of the most striking points of differentiation between sales tax and VAT are listed below.

  • VAT is levied from both producers of goods and services as well as consumers while sales tax is levied only from customers
  • VAT is a complex taxation process because it is charged in multiple stages. Sales tax is a pretty straightforward taxation procedure
  • VAT is a multi-stage tax levied at each step of production while sales tax is charged from customers at the final purchase of goods or services
  • VAT places in a lot of checks and hence is more transparent and efficient while sales tax is easy to fiddle with
  • VAT collection places more burden on producers of goods and services which they might ultimately charge from customers, leading to an increased financial burden on customers
  • VAT is more transparent and efficient as compared to sales tax and hence generates more revenue for the government than sales tax

Features of VAT in India

  • Similar goods and services are taxed equally. So a similar television from all brands will be taxed the same
  • VAT is levied at each stage of production and hence makes the taxation process easier and more transparent
  • VAT reduces chances of tax evasion and fosters compliance
  • Encourages transparency in sale of goods and services at the lowest level

FAQs on Value Added Tax (VAT)

  1. Does the VAT that I pay as part of any purchase reach the government?
  2. Yes. Respective state governments are responsible for collection of VAT which is then passed on to the central government.

  3. Why does VAT on my television set vary in Uttar Pradesh as compared to that in Karnataka?
  4. VAT is subject to the rules and guidelines of the state government and as such may vary slightly from one state to another, even for similar goods and services.

  5. Is VAT levied on certain basic necessities such as salt and oil too?
  6. No. Many state governments in India have done away with the concept of VAT for certain necessary goods.

  7. Is the compliance rate of VAT better than sales tax?
  8. Yes. Since VAT is levied at every stage of production, it offers less chances of loopholes which can be exploited and as such is better in terms of compliance as compared to sales tax which is easy to fiddle with.

  9. Does VAT enhance the cascading effect in taxation process?
  10. No. Rather it minimizes the chances of cascading effect by levying the required tax amount at each and every stage of production.

News About VAT

  • Puducherry LG reduces VAT on petrol and diesel

    Ahead of the Assembly polls in Puducherry, Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan had made an announcement regarding a 2% reduction in the Value Added Tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel.

    Post the reduction in VAT, the rates of petrol and diesel will dip by Rs1.40. This announcement had come in ahead of the one for elections for 30 Assembly seats in Puducherry by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

    01 March 2020

  • VAT on diesel reduced by Delhi government

    The Delhi government has slashed the value added tax (VAT) on diesel. The state government has reduced it to 16.75 percent from 30 percent. The reduction in the rates mean that diesel will get cheaper in the national capital by Rs.8.36 per litre. It must be noted here that in the month of May Delhi government had increased the VAT on diesel to 30 percent from 16.75 percent.

    30 July 2020

  • Prices of petrol and diesel to increase as government hikes VAT

    The state government of Rajasthan hiked the Value Added Tax (VAT) on diesel and petrol by 1% and 2%, respectively. The main reason for the increase in prices was the lack of revenue because of the coronavirus outbreak.

    With the increase, the VAT on diesel is 28% and on petrol, it is 38%. Therefore, the prices of diesel and petrol have been increased by 53 paise and Rs.1.12, respectively. During the lockdown period, this is the third time that VAT has been increased. On 21 March 2020, the VAT was increased on diesel and petrol by 4%. On 15 April 2020, the VAT on petrol and diesel increased by 2% and 1%, respectively. On 6 May 2020, the state government levied a mandi tax of 2% on the purchase of agriculture. In the last week of the previous month, an additional duty of 15% was levied on beer and liquor. The increase in duty is expected to bring in additional revenue of Rs.800 crore. As per sources, the VAT that is earned from the sale of fuels has fallen by nearly 75% during the lockdown period.

    08 May 2020

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