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What Is Goods And Services Tax (GST)? Everything You Need To Know

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Did you notice that whether you buy a chocolate or a new iPhone, you pay some extra money over its actual price? That extra amount you pay is the GST.

So, what is GST?

How does it affect your business?

What are GST rates and different categories?

You will get answers to all these queries associated with GST in this writeup. Read further to know more.

Introduction to GST

Abbreviated for Goods and Services Tax, GST is a type of value-added tax, replacing the indirect tax system. It is an indirect tax that replaces all other indirect taxes, including VAT, excise duty, service tax, etc. levied on the sale of goods and services. GST is a comprehensive and multi-stage tax that adds to the product value at each value addition stage along its supply chain.

How does the GST Work?

Firstly, you must know that GST is a destination-based tax, which means the tax levies in the state where the goods will be consumed. Under the original tax-based system, state governments levy taxes at each point of production. However, in the GST regime, only the state and the region, where the consumer resides and consumes the goods and services, can collect the tax revenue; regardless of where the company produced the goods or rendered its services.

However, it does not mean that tax is not applicable at different points of sale. The only change is that it keeps on adding and finally, the consumer pays while purchasing the product.

In simple words to explain what is GST tax, it is the replacement of different indirect taxes that central and state governments levied earlier, bringing a nation into a unified tax structure.

However, there are some goods and services which remain out of GST exemptions. All such goods and services fall under the state’s older tax regime of VAT. In the VAT system, tax is levied at every step of value addition, from procurement of raw materials to delivery to end consumers.  

As the GST combines different indirect taxes into one single system, it reduces the compliance burden for manufacturers and businesses. Further, manufacturers need not club different taxes into one, easing their job. The production cost also reduces, making products more affordable. Implementation of GST also enhances transparency in the tax system as its digital infrastructure can record each and every transaction, be it small or huge.

Also, as GST is a universally accepted tax regime, it puts a nation on par with the world market.

GST Rates and Categories

GST rates in different countries can vary as every country has its own version of GST with its own rates and categories. Also, these rates and categories are subject to revision with the changing economic conditions and government policies. Let’s get a broad overview of the GST rates in some countries.


In Australia, you will find a unified GST rate of 10%. However, some goods and services, including education, basic food items, and healthcare are out of the GST regime.


 Unlike Australia, Canada has a federal GST levied at the rate of 5%. Besides this, the provinces also impose their provincial sales tax and harmonized sales tax 9HST ranging between 13-15%) along with GST.

European Union

The EU follows a VAT system with standard tax rates ranging between 17-27%. Each member state levies its own rates under EU guidelines. However, some goods and services are exempted here too while some others have reduced rates.


In India, the GST structure is multi-tier i.e. there are various rates and categories depending on the types of goods and services. Starting from the 0% GST on essential food items, the highest GST tax slab is 28%, applicable on luxury hotels, high-end electronics, and automobiles. In between these two rates, there are rates of 5%, 12% and 18%.

Apart from this, luxury cars, tobacco, aerated drinks, cigarettes, and petrol attract cess too. Cess is an additional charge levied over and above GST.

United Kingdom

The UK also follows a VAT structure with a standard rate of 20%. However, the nation exempts some essential food items and insurance and financial services. Also, some products like children’s car seats and domestic fuel fall under reduced tax rates of 5%.


Singapore levies a single standard rate of 7%, exempting some services including residential properties, financial services, and essential food items.

Different Types of GST

Though GST is a unified tax system, it has different types based on the taxed goods and services and the way in which the tax is levied. Let’s briefly discuss the different types of GST to know the real meaning of goods and services tax.

1. CGST or Central GST: As the name clears, this is the tax collected by the central government on the intra-state supply of goods. For example, you buy goods from the trader from the same state and the revenue that you pay to the central government is CGST.

2. SGST or State GST: In the scenario explained above, the tax revenue that goes to the state is state GST. Or in simpler words, the tax that a state collects for an intrastate transaction.

3. IGST or Integrated GST: When you buy some goods or services from a different state, the central government will levy IGST on the purchased products and will distribute them to the destination state. IGST maintains a uniform tax structure, allowing smooth movement of services and goods between different states.

4. Union territory GST or UTGST: This tax is similar to SGST but when levied by the union territories, it is UTGST.

5. Composite GST: In some countries, you will find a composite GST system where one standard rate applies to all goods and services. The process makes it easier to calculate tax levied.

6. Multi-stage GST: The name makes it clear that when GST applies to the different stages of the supply chain, it is a multi-stage GST. However, in this case, you can prevent rising tax amounts through input tax credits.

7. Dual GST: In some countries like India, both state and central governments have the right to levy GST on the same base of goods and services parallelly.

How does GST Affect Businesses?

What is GST for businesses?

Is it good or bad?

There is no definite answer to this as it depends on the particular business context, its size, GST implementation, and the economic environment. Let’s know what advantages GST brings for business and how it is challenging in certain aspects.

Some Positive Aspects:

Firstly, as we all know, GST combines all indirect taxes, making it a unified tax system. With this simplification, businesses involved in interstate transactions have lesser administrative burden. Also, there is a significant reduction in compliance costs. Further, this unified tax structure creates a level playing field by eradicating interstate trade barriers.

Another positive aspect of GST is that you can claim Input Tax credit for the GST paid in the course of a business transaction. However, you need to present proper documents and should prove compliance with GST rules. With this facility, businesses can lighten their tax burden, improving cash flow.

Some Initial Challenges 

If you are a small business owner, GST technology and compliance requirements can pose initial challenges for you. You may need to invest in different systems to ensure GST compliance such as training staff, updating your account software, or getting familiar with the new tax laws. However, gradually, you may realize its benefits as it reduces tax burden, making you more competitive in the market. GST also brings prominent changes in the tax structure of the service sector. Some services may become cheaper while some others may have to face higher tax rates.

When it comes to impact on pricing, GST has balanced effects. All thanks to the input tax credit feature, prices of some goods and services will drop significantly while due to changed GST rates, some goods and services may become costlier. In the case of international trade, exporters can ask for refunds for the GST paid on the exported goods while in the case of imports, IGST brings a significant impact on the goods pricing.

Freelancers Tips for GST Compliance

For freelancers, Goods and Services Tax (GST) compliance can be crucial for maintaining legal and financial integrity. Here are some tips to ensure GST compliance:

  • If you are a freelancer, you need to be GST compliant to ensure your financial and legal integrity. Some tips that can help you are:
  • Firstly, based on your total annual income, identify if you come under the GST tax regime. If yes, you need to register for GST with the concerned tax authority. Even if your turnover is less than the GST registration threshold, you need to keep a check that it does not go beyond that. If it increases, register for GST.
  • Once your GST registration process is complete, make sure that you keep details of all your invoices, expenses, and income receipts. You may need them to report your GST paid and to claim your ITC.
  • While issuing invoices, ensure that you mention all the information required as per GST rules and regulations. This may include your GST registration number, invoice data and number, client details, total amount, and a small description of the type of service.
  • While mentioning the total amount, ensure that you add GST levied on the taxable goods and services.
  • Don’t forget to file your GST returns. You can do it via online portals. Mention all the income and expense details and GST calculations accurately.
  • Always keep yourself updated with the GST rules and regulations, especially those associated with your types of service and industry.
  • If you have paid any GST on business expenses, maintain a record so that you can claim your ITC. This helps you reduce your overall tax burden.
  • Make sure that you keep aside enough funds to pay your taxes on time. If not, you may have to face serious penalties and interest charges.

Still in doubt?

Seek some professional advice regarding tax implications and GST compliance. A tax professional specialized in GST can guide you with the best tips for your specific situation.


GST rates may vary from country to country and may undergo revisions based on the changing government policies. It is essential that you keep yourself updated with the latest laws to ensure compliance with your country’s GST laws.


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