The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting that was scheduled to be held in August this year has been delayed as the group of ministers’ (GoM’s) report for levying of GST on online gaming, horse racing, and casinos is yet to decide on whether to classify such games as games of skill or games of chance, a senior state government official told Outlook Business. The GoM was created to define online games, horse racing and casinos so that a clear logic of taxing these activities could be set.
In May last year, the government had set up a GoM for better valuation of services of casinos, online gaming portals, and race courses for levying GST.
In the June GST Council meeting, the GoM had recommended that online gaming should be taxed at the full value of the consideration, including the contest entry fee paid by a player for participating in the game. It meant a uniform 28% GST on online gaming, horse racing, and casinos.
The recommendation went against the existing norm of 18% GST on casinos, horse racing and online games where no betting or gambling is involved. The rate is 28% for online games involving betting or gambling.
Goa had objected to this recommendation with an argument that a 28% rate on the full-face value of chips or coins purchased at a casino would severely hit the sector as the entire amount was not spent on betting.
A major part of the payment for chips or coins was used for buying items such as food and beverages, the state pointed out.
This led the GST Council to send the proposal back to the GoM on casinos, horse racing and online gaming to re-examine the issues after holding discussions with the states and stakeholders. The panel was expected to submit its report in September, which has now got delayed.
“The decision on whether to classify online games as games of chance or games of luck is yet to be taken. That is why the GoM report has got delayed. Once you decide on how to treat these games, then the taxation part would easier to arrive at,” the official said.
In the case of racecourses, the GoM had suggested that GST should be levied on the full value of bets pooled in the totalisators and placed with the bookmakers.
The GoM is headed by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma and the eight-member panel includes Goa Panchayati Raj Minister Mauvin Godinho, Tamil Nadu finance minister P Thiaga Rajan, Uttar Pradesh Finance Minister Suresh Khanna, and Telangana Finance Minister T Harish Rao. The official said that there has been no unanimous decision on the categorization of online games as games of chance or skills.
“There is no consensus yet on the categorization of these games. If it is decided that online gaming and horse trading do not fall under games of chance and are in fact games of skill, in that case the law should be interpreted with nuance. A law already exists for application of 30 per cent TDS on payout. Every time someone collects money, it should be split into two different accounts. First account’s deposit should be attracting 28 per cent GST and the second account should be an ESCROW account. All payouts should go from there with a 30 per cent TDS that’s mandated,” the official said.