India cuts tax rates on some goods under national sales tax

The council has so far taken more than 190 items, including washing machines and leather goods, out of the highest tax rate. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 December 2018

India cuts tax rates on some goods under national sales tax

  • Modi is seeking a second term in next five months amid voter frustration over the abrupt implementation of a nationwide goods and services tax (GST)
  • The GST council agreed to lower the tax on some goods including televisions, batteries and movie tickets

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: India slashed the sales tax rate on over 20 items on Saturday in a move aimed at appealing to traders and the middle class after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party lost elections in five states.
Modi is seeking a second term in next five months amid voter frustration over the abrupt implementation of a nationwide goods and services tax (GST) in July 2017 that has resulted in job losses for thousands of workers in small businesses.
The GST council, headed by India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley, agreed to lower the tax on some goods including televisions, batteries and movie tickets.
The council cut tax rates on six items from the highest tax rate of 28 percent to 18 percent and on one item — wheelchairs and parts — to five percent.
Most other items saw tax rates cut from 18 percent to 12 percent and five percent.
The council has so far taken more than 190 items, including washing machines and leather goods, out of the highest tax rate. Only 34 items — particularly luxury goods — remain in the top slab of 28 percent.
“It is decided to retain sin (such as alcohol and tobacco) and luxury goods in 28 percent bracket. Cement and some auto parts are also still in 28 percent slab,” Jaitley told reporters.
On Tuesday, Modi said the government was planning to cut the number of items taxed at the highest rate so that over 99 percent of items, with the exception of luxury goods, come under the 18 percent or lower rates.
A report by the country’s largest bank State Bank of India estimated that federal and state governments could face a shortfall of about 900 billion rupees ($12.83 billion) in GST tax collections in the current fiscal year against the budget target of 12.9 trillion rupees.


Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

Updated 16 July 2020

Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

  • The circumstances of the hijack are still unclear and the boat has been tracked to Iranian waters

DUBAI: An oil tanker sought by the US over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the UAE, a seafarers organization said Wednesday.

Satellite photos showed the vessel in Iranian waters on Tuesday and two of its sailors remained in the Iranian capital.

It wasn’t immediately clear what happened aboard the Dominica-flagged MT Gulf Sky, though its reported hijacking comes after months of tensions between Iran and the US

David Hammond, the CEO of the United Kingdom-based group Human Rights at Sea, said he took a witness statement from the captain of the MT Gulf Sky, confirming the ship had been hijacked.

Hammond said that 26 of the Indian sailors on board had made it back to India, while two remained in Tehran, without elaborating.

“We are delighted to hear that the crew are safe and well, which has been our fundamental concern from the outset,” Hammond told The Associated Press.

Hammond said that he had no other details about the vessel.

TankerTrackers.com, a website tracking the oil trade at sea, said it saw the vessel in satellite photos on Tuesday in Iranian waters off Hormuz Island. 

Hormuz Island, near the port city of Bandar Abbas, is some 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Khorfakkan, a city on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates where the vessel had been for months.

The Emirati government, the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not respond to requests for comment. Iranian state media did not immediately report on the vessel and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of trying to launder some $12 million to purchase the tanker, at that time named the MT Nautica, through a series of front companies. 

The vessel then took on Iranian oil from Kharg Island to sell abroad, the US government said.

Court documents allege the scheme involved the Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which is its elite expeditionary unit, as well as Iran’s national oil and tanker companies. The two men charged, one of whom also has an Iraqi passport, remain at large.

“Because a US bank froze the funds related to the sale of the vessel, the seller never received payment,” the Justice Department said. “As a result, the seller instituted a civil action in the UAE to recover the vessel.”

That civil action was believed to be still pending, raising questions of how the tanker sailed away from the Emirates after being seized by authorities there.

Data from the MT Gulf Sky’s Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off around 4:30 a.m. on July 5, according to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but Iranian vessels routinely turn theirs off to mask their movements.

Meanwhile, the 28 Indian sailors on board the vessel found themselves stuck on board without pay for months, according to the International Labor Organization. It filed a report saying the vessel and its sailors had been abandoned by its owners since March off Khorfakkan. The ILO did not respond to a request for comment.

As tensions between Iran and the US heated up last year, tankers plying the waters of the Mideast became targets, particularly near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Gulf’s narrow mouth through which 20 percent of all oil passes. Suspected limpet mine attacks the US blamed on Iran targeted several tankers. Iran denied being involved, though it did seize several tankers.