|Partha Chatterjee in the Assembly while the budget was being placed. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, March 11: The state government has decided to register unorganised traders who do not own premises, raising the spectre of legalising hawkers on the streets.
Even though the word “hawker” was not used in the budget speech and no clarification was available from the government, a careful study threw up such a possibility.
“A vast unorganised business community comprising small traders have no option but to carry on their livelihood from premises without proper ownership documents. To empower such a vast number of unorganised traders of Bengal, I propose to introduce a system of simplified registration with minimal documentation for such reselling dealers. This is the mindset of the government of Ma Mati Manush,” finance minister Amit Mitra said in his budget speech.
Generally, hawkers and cartpullers do their business on streets or footpaths without having any ownership of them.
Mitra also announced a slew of reforms in the tax collection method to shore up revenue.
For instance, the budget proposes to exempt small resellers and work contractors having an annual turnover of less than Rs 50 lakh from payment of purchase tax.
The budget also proposes to reform the input tax credit (ITC) for traders.
“The input tax credit mechanism is the mainstay of the VAT scheme but claims of ITC of many dealers were denied for not maintaining stock registers. I propose to completely dispense with the requirement of maintenance of stock registers for the purpose of availing ITC. This is a big risk to take but the Ma Mati Manush-centric government truly believes in trusting our brothers and sisters in Bengal. I am sure they will honour our trust,” Mitra said.
At a post-budget news conference, industries minister Partha Chatterjee lauded the twin steps and said they would boost the state’s economy.
City-based business chambers also expressed satisfaction.
“Augmentation of the ceiling of self-audit from Rs 3 crore to Rs 5 crore is laudable, particularly in the context of effective cost reduction. Besides, the complete abolition of mechanical assessment under VAT and CST Acts will certainly reduce harassment and encourage taxpayers,” said Ashok Aikat, the president of Bharat Chamber of Commerce.
“The abolition and scrapping of purchase tax on work contracts and dispensing with the need to maintain stock registers for ITC will immensely benefit small and medium traders by bringing down transaction costs,” the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.