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GST impact: India gold imports jumped fourfold in May on higher taxation fears

LiveMint logoLiveMint 08-06-2017 Swansy Afonso

Mumbai/New Delhi: India, which vies with China as the world’s top gold consumer, saw a fourfold increase in imports of the precious metal in May as traders stocked up fearing that the government would fix a higher rate for jewellery under the new goods and services tax (GST) regime to be implemented from 1 July.

Overseas purchases advanced to 126 tonnes in May from 31.5 tonnes a year earlier, according to a person familiar with provisional data from the finance ministry, who asked not to be identified as the data aren’t public. Finance ministry spokesman D.S. Malik declined to comment on the data.

The government fixed the GST rate for gold at 3%. The rate is lower than expected, Ketan Shroff, joint secretary at the India Bullion and Jewellers Association Ltd said on Monday. The duty will replace more than a dozen domestic levies including excise tax and state tariffs, making India a common market for the first time.

“The massive import numbers were because people were worried about the kind of taxation that would come in but now that the tax has been fixed at a lower rate, imports will moderate going forward,” said Kunal Shah, head of research at Nirmal Bang Securities Pvt by phone from Mumbai. India’s monsoon is expected to be normal and that would further underpin a demand recovery, he said.

Demand is projected to rise to between 850 tonnes to 950 tonnes by 2020 from an estimated 650 tonnes to 750 tonnes in 2017 buoyed by the new tax regime, the World Gold Council said in a report on Thursday.

While the industry will go through a period of adjustment, the net impact on the gold industry will be positive, the council said. “The gold supply chain should become more transparent and efficient, and the tax reform could boost economic growth, which we see as supporting gold demand.”

In the financial year ended March 31, the country’s imports dropped 20% to 716.4 tonnes, according to the finance ministry. Indians buy gold during festivals and for marriages as part of the bridal trousseau or as gifts. The nation imports almost all the gold it consumes.

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