GST: A Critical Analysis of Implementation and Impact

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) stands as a landmark reform within India’s indirect tax structure. Implemented in 2017, GST aimed to unify the nation under a single tax regime, streamlining compliance and broadening the overall tax base.  This article offers a critical assessment of GST’s key impact, implementation and subsequent effects on the Indian economy. Through an analysis of key legal cases, it examines the ongoing challenges and complexities faced by businesses and taxpayers. The study evaluates GST’s impact on economic growth, tax collection, ease of doing business, and federal-state relations. The article concludes by offering recommendations for further refining the GST system for India’s future development.


India’s indirect taxation landscape underwent a radical transformation with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on July 1st, 2017. GST replaced a complex web of central and state-level taxes such as VAT, excise duty, and service tax. Its primary goals were:

  • “One Nation, One Tax, One Market”: Creating a unified market across India.
  • Simplified Tax Structure: Eliminating the cascading effects of multiple taxes.
  • Enhanced Tax Compliance: Broadening the tax base and boosting collections.
  • Improved Ease of Doing Business: Promoting efficiency and transparency.

Key Impact

  1. Reduction of Tax Cascading: GST’s seamless input tax credit (ITC) mechanism has significantly mitigated the cascading effects of taxes (i.e., tax on tax), reducing the cost of goods and services.
  2. Formalizing the Economy: GST’s increased reliance on technology has improved transparency, reduced the scope for tax evasion, and aided in widening the tax base.
  3. Improved Ease of Doing Business: GST has simplified indirect tax compliance, making India a more attractive investment destination.
  4. Enhanced Economic Integration: GST aims to create a unified market within India, streamlining interstate trade and boosting inter-regional commerce.

Implementation Challenges

While GST promised significant benefits, initial implementation was marked by hurdles and complexities:

  1. Initial Implementation Complexities: The initial phases of GST saw disruptions due to a lack of understanding among taxpayers and technological glitches in the GST Network (GSTN).
  2. Compliance Burden for Small Businesses: Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have struggled with increased compliance costs and the complexity of GST returns filing.
  3. Revenue Concerns for States: Some states have voiced concerns about revenue shortfalls and the potential erosion of their fiscal autonomy under GST.
  4. Dispute Resolution Mechanisms: Concerns exist about the efficacy and timely functioning of GST’s dispute resolution mechanisms.

Case Analysis:

Implementation of ambiguities led to legal disputes. Key cases include:

  1. Mohit Minerals Pvt Ltd v. Union of India (2022): (SCC Online SC 657)
    • Central Issue: This case did not directly address the overall constitutionality of the GST framework. The key issue was the legality of imposing Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) on ocean freight paid by importers under Cost, Insurance, and Freight (CIF) contracts.
    • Supreme Court Decision: The Supreme Court ruled that imposing IGST on the ocean freight component of CIF imports was unconstitutional. The reasoning was that the ocean freight was part of a composite supply where tax had already been paid.
    • GST Framework: While the Mohit Minerals case didn’t address the constitutionality of the entire GST framework, it did have important implications:
    • Federalism: It highlighted the balance of power between the Union (central) and State governments in the GST regime.
    • GST Council’s Role: It raised questions about the binding nature of recommendations made by the GST Council.
  2. VKC Footsteps India Pvt Ltd. v. Union of India (2021): (SCC Online SC 446)
    • Background: This case arose due to disagreements over the classification of footwear and the applicable GST rate. VKC Footsteps asserted that certain footwear should be taxed at a lower rate, while the government had a different classification.
    • Madras High Court Decision: The Court ruled in favour of VKC Footsteps, finding that the footwear in question qualified for a lower GST rate.
    • Significance: The decision emphasized the importance of precise classification of goods under the GST system. It highlighted potential areas of ambiguity and the significance of courts in clarifying those ambiguities in favour of either the government or the taxpayer.

Impact Analysis

Despite challenges, GST has had a discernible impact on the Indian economy:

  • Tax Revenue: GST initially saw fluctuations in tax collections, but revenue has shown a trend of stabilization and growth.
  • Economic Growth: The long-term impact on GDP growth is still being debated, but the simplified tax system has reduced logistics costs and potentially improved overall efficiency.
  • Ease of Doing Business: GST reduced compliance burdens for many businesses. India’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index has improved in subsequent years.
  • Federal-State Relations: While GST is a cooperative federalism model, disputes related to compensation and revenue sharing between the centre and states remain a source of tension.


India’s GST stands as an ambitious tax reform, having a profound impact on the nation’s economy. While it has yielded positive outcomes in certain areas, complexities and challenges remain. The efficiency of the GST regime depends on continuous streamlining of processes, addressing the concerns of all stakeholders, and effective implementation of the legal framework. As GST matures, its true potential and long-term impact on India’s economic trajectory will become even more clear.

i)This opinion/clarification note is based on the facts provided to us and the same is
being issued without any knowledge of intent, prejudice, non-disclosure,
misrepresentation, or concealment of facts if any.   
ii)We have not done investigation of correctness of facts and the limited opinion
represents our understanding of the provisions of the law on the matter. The
compliance mentioned above is not exhaustive and other compliance may also be
involved depending on case to case basis.  
iii)The conclusions reached and views expressed are matters of opinion based on
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