Talks on VAT fail; traders to stop import from April 1

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Bhubaneswar: A high-level meeting between the Odisha government and representatives of the traders’ body held here today failed to arrive at a decision on the contentious issue of exemption of value added tax (VAT) on essential commodities.

The traders’ association has blamed the government for the failure of the talks and announced its decision to stop import of essential commodities from other states from April 1.

Expressing helplessness, Sudhakar Panda, secretary of the Federation of All Odisha Traders’ Association (FAOTA), said, “We have been demanding exemption of VAT for the benefit of more than 4 crore population of the state and growth of all traders across the state, which is the responsibility of the government.”

“While 24 out of 29 states in the country are not levying this tax, why is the Odisha government imposing it? It is the consumers who are bearing the brunt. At the March 26 meeting, the state government assured us to bring down the tax on pulses to 1% from 5% and to discuss the tax rate on other essential commodities. But, in today’s meeting, the government was simply in no mood to listen to us and tried to delay things,” Panda added.

He also informed that the traders’ body, after today’s meeting, has decided to stick to its earlier decision to stop import of essential commodities from other states from April 1.

Meanwhile, the government requested the traders’ body to cooperate and not stop import of essential commodities.

The Finance and Food & Civil Supplies ministers assured the traders’ body to hold another round of meting after the end of the budget session of Assembly, sources added.

The meeting with members of FAOTA held at the state secretariat here was chaired by Finance Minister Pradip Kumar Amat and attended by Food and Consumer Welfare Minister Sanjay Dasburma, principal secretary of Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Department Madhusudan Padhi, Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi and Finance Secretary R Balkrishnan, among other senior officials.

The meeting discussed the Federation demand for withdrawal of 5% VAT on food items including pulses, wheat and wheat products, sugar, rice and edible oil.

Notably, the Federation had on March 25 threatened to stop the import of essential commodities from other states from April 1 protesting against 5% VAT imposed on these items by the state government. The traders’ body has been demanding imposition of unitary tax instead of 5% VAT on food items since long.

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