Both big note currency demonetization at the end of 2016, and the current goods and services tax (GST) one-tax one-country regime have been optimistically cheered on by much of the publishing and printing industry. Both large and small commercial printers since 1 July 2017 when the GST came into force, are saying that their presses are mostly idle or working single shift even as they spend countless hours in meetings with other printers and publishers and consultants.
The problem with one tax one country is that there are multiple GST lanes—0%, 5%, 12% and 18%—for the most part. There is apparently one rate for books where the publisher provides the paper and another if the printer provides a turn-key solution. At a Capexil seminar in Delhi attended by leading book printers, it was not really clear if the rate on printed books is 0% or 18%. For status holding book printing exports, the tax is apparently 0% but large print exporters do not want to be caught out later as ITC was this week when the taxes on cigarettes were steeply revised upwards.
In the context of even senior government officials attending GST seminars being candidly less than authoritative, a leading book printer and exporter says, “If you are the creator of a half-baked cake and you don’t have any answers, who or what are printers or publishers supposed to do?”