The one word we all as disabled activists, Persons with disabilities and their environment including parents and caregivers etc… wish to forget and forge ahead is “OH! YOU CAN’T DO THIS… WISH WE HAD SOME GOODS OR SERVICES ENABLING IT…!! “, with the fear of International Admonition and Keen monitoring from International community, India is taking baby steps on MOBILITY, ACCESSIBILITY, EMPLOYABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY of Persons with Disabilities. But time and again, Indian government with its insensitive attitude towards disabled make me think, they still want to remain as babies doing baby steps forever.
ONE SUCH FINE EXAMPLE IS INTRODUCTION OF TAX ON GOODS AND SERVICES USED BY PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES, ELDERS AND ANY IN THIS COUNTRY USING AIDS AND APPLIANCES WHICH WERE 0% taxed before now are taxed ranging from 5% to 18%
Recently, I had misfortune of purchasing two wheelchairs before and after GST, the basic model wheelchair before GST is costing 3800 and after GST 4200 with a 5% tax neatly split into State GST and Central GST of 2.5%
Now, when I checked the slab rates I was really shocked to see what happened to “ welfare State” and “Inclusive growth” concepts.
I agree there is GST in several countries, but please enlighten me which country taxes their most vulnerable people, aged, sick, disabled, pregnant, mentally challenged and any other community which needs certain goods and services as part of their survival and to have quality of life.
Inclusive growth is a concept that advances equitable opportunities for economic participants during economic growth with benefits incurred by every section of society. This concept expands upon traditional economic growth models to include focus on the equity of health, human capital, environmental quality, social protection, and food security.
Please check the table below
Check GST Free Goods and Services in Other Countries
some medical, health and care services
some medical aids and appliances
some childcare services
some religious services and charitable activities
supplies of accommodation and meals to residents of retirement villages by certain operators
cars for disabled people to use, as long as certain requirements are met
Some examples of GST/HST zero-rated goods and services are
Medical devices – artificial teeth or limbs, hearing aids, walkers, wheelchairs, canes, guide dogs, eyeglasses or contact lenses, asthmatic devices, modifications to motor vehicles to accommodate disabilities, orthotics, etc. Also included are insulin pumps, and pens, and urinary catheters.
· Medical and dental services – includes doctors, dentists, dental hygienists, orthodontists, optometrists, chiropractors, physiotherapists, audiologists, psychologists, podiatrists, dieticians, social workers (but not massage therapists). Note that some medical procedures are considered to be non healthcare-related and as such are subject to GST/HST. Examples include preparing medical-legal reports or disability certificates, expert witness fees, cosmetic surgery to enhance an individual’s appearance (unless it is for reconstructive purposes such as from accident or disease), etc.
where as GST/HST is not more than 10%
European Union (EU)
The European Economic Community (EEC) adopted VAT throughout Europe, replacing cascading multi-stage turnover tax. VAT was implemented due to the ease with which it handled cross-border transactions and facilitated the development of a common market.
The VAT Directive sets the framework for VAT structure in the EU, but leaves national governments with the freedom to set the number and level of rates they choose. They may use provisions of VAT Directives in national legislation, subject to the following basic rules:
1. Goods or services supplied in the course of business by a taxable person within the EU are subject to VAT at a standard rate not lower than 15%, unless specifically exempt.
2. EU member states can opt to apply one or two reduced rates of not less than 5%.
3. Goods and services in the public interest, such as medical care, services linked to welfare and social security work by public entities or charitable organizations, certain education and cultural services, specific financial and insurance services, certain supplies of land and buildings, export of goods, and shipments of intra-EU supplies are exempt from VAT.
In a nutshell, not anywhere the GST is more than 15% with input credit facilities also. Australia 10%, Canada 15% European Union 15% with specific exemption in the goods used by persons with disabilities,where as in India its ranging from 5% to 18% ( check the table above)
Let us understand the legal framework now (sourced from article by Ms. Nirmita Narasimhan)
The proposed GST implementation and tax on products and services that are critical for persons with disabilities to pursue independence, literacy and employment with dignity runs counter to both national and international law to which India is a signatory.
Article 38 of the Constitution of India also requires the government to minimize inequalities in income, status, facilities and opportunities among individuals and groups of people.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, enjoin the government to utilize the capacity of persons with disabilities by providing appropriate environment (Art 3(2) ) and take necessary steps to ensure reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities (Art 3(5)).
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India has signed and ratified, calls on nations to promote the development and adoption of assistive technologies and devices for persons with disabilities, again “giving priority to technologies at an affordable cost.” (Article 4 (g)). Additional provisions include:
Art 4 – General Obligations asks states parties to take into account the protection and promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities in all policies and programmes;
Art 5 (3) – asks States Parties to take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided
Article 20 also requires nations to facilitate access to mobility aids, assistive technologies and other intermediaries, and requires that they be made available at affordable cost.
Art 24 on Education enjoins States parties to ensure persons with disabilities have access to inclusive education, that reasonable accommodation is provided and use of Braille, alternative modes and formats is facilitated
Art 27 on Work and employment required nations to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, to just and favourable conditions of work
Art 29 on participation in political and public life advocates the creation of an environment that enables persons with disabilities to participate fully and effectively in the conduct of public affairs
Let me ask some pertinent questions here..
What is the constitutional validity to impose tax on a group/community of people who require special medical and other care?
When a Zero % Item is brought to certain slab rate of taxation, if it’s a need for survival or medical emergency or non-emergency item enhancing quality of life of the patient or stake holder, does such community is consulted and the idea of imposing tax is discussed with them?? In this case, disabled/senior citizen and other communities which needs the assistive goods and services.
Our prime minister has given a nomenclature to us as “Divyaang” -Divine Bodied, what’s so divine when you pay a little bit extra cost to be able to hear (hearing aids), to see (lenses etc..) to move (wheelchairs and other mobility aids) ??
There is a lot of lobbying and content is being proliferated on Internet and media that GST will reduce the prices, How its going to reduce when a zero taxed item which is just in tariff for the record purpose and to avail certain input credits and export/import facilities, be brought in to tax at certain rate?
India is among the first countries that sign UNCRPD which envisaged all disabled rights as human rights, what about the moral and legal commitment to do so?
India has 21 million persons with disabilities which is nearly 2.17% of the population. Whereas education, employment rate among persons with disabilities are less. How GOI is going to achieve the equality and accessibility when every assistive and enabling technology is taxed heavily??
GST also hampers the mobility of persons with disabilities by taxing on all mobility aids including cars. This will engulf most of the disability community in asking for the same rights and fighting the same battles again and again.
I wish to conclude with my favorite STELLA YOUNG’S quotes on DISABILITY
SIMILARLY, NO AMOUNT OF SUPPORT IS NOT ENOUGH SOMETIMES TO COMPENSATE THE LIVES PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ARE LEADING, DON’T MAKE THEM MORE DISABLED WITH YOUR TAXES
THERE ARE ENOUGH EXPLANATIONS DEAR GOVERNMENT… ACT TO COMPLETELY ROLL BACK GST ON DISABILITY
Sai Padma Murthy
Founder/President: Global AID
Partner Director: Legal Labs LLP
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