New Delhi: The Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) has urged Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to correct an error in cigarette taxation under the new tax regime in the Budget, which did not account for the cascading effect on excise duty that existed in the pre-GST system.
The FAIFA is a non-profit organisation that represents the cause of farmers and farm workers of commercial crops across the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Gujarat.
In a letter written to the Finance Minister, which has also been submitted to various concerned Ministries including the PMO, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Labour, the FAIFA has contended that error in cigarette taxation in the Budget has inadvertently increased compensation cess rates that have resulted in additional taxes of around 13% above the pre-GST levels.
“Any additional burden caused by the increase in compensation cess rates will put further pressure on the livelihood of Indian tobacco farmers. As observed in the past that increase in taxes have resulted in the inflow of huge quantities of illicit cigarettes in the market,” the FAIFA letter to Sitharaman said.
The legitimate cigarette industry size in India, which was at 110 billion sticks in 2011-12 as per industry estimates, has dropped by 25% to about 83 billion cigarettes in 2016-17. In contrast, the illegal, duty-evaded cigarette segment has grown to about 26 billion cigarettes in 2017, i.e., almost one-fourth of the industry.
To ensure livelihood support for tobacco farmers, FAIFA has appealed to roll back tax increase which is in the Budget so that taxes on the sector comes back to pre-GST revenue neutral rates. The federation has also said that the government should have a tax policy that disincentives illicit trade of cigarettes. It has also urged for reinstatement of tobacco export incentives to boost the economy of Indian Flue Cured Virginia (FCV) farmers.
“… we would like to underline that the principle of revenue neutrality has been reiterated time and again by the government in respect of fixation of tax rates in the Budget the GST era,” Javare Gowda, President, Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA), said making a case for restoring taxation to pre-GST levels.