Barge owners to get tax breaks

In a bid to provide some relief to beleaguered barge owners, the state government appears to be deliberating over a reduction in barge tax
and rural infrastructure cess in the coming months, said ministers Michael Lobo and Mauvin Godinho on Saturday.

While Lobo said that an “informal decision” has been taken to reduce taxes on barges to Rs 1 per tonne of cargo transported, Godinho said that the state government was looking at a demand for the removal of rural infrastructure cess on inland waterways cargo ‘positively’.

Neither of the ministers, who were speaking at a conference on logistics organised by Confederation of Indian Industry, gave a timeline for the sops to be notified.

“We will definitely, positively decide on reducing barge tax”, said Lobo.

Exemption of barge tax will further dent the state’s coffers, as Rs 5 lakh is levied as annual tax per barge. While there are 120 barges registered in the state, less than 80 of them remain operational.

Speaking later, Godinho acknowledged that the rural infrastructure cess, which is imposed on all cargo moved by barges from the mining belt areas, was a problem. The cess was imposed to counter the impact of mining on rural areas, but the objective was later met by the district mineral foundation fund.

“There is a delegation that came to me and we are looking at it very positively to see that Goa is not at a disadvantage. We seek to do away with the cess, which has been your major demand,” said Godinho.

Agreeing with the announcements made by the ministers, Inland Waterways Authority of India chairperson Dr Amita Prasad said that rationalisation of taxes was important, if the inland waterways sector had to grow.

Prasad and Godinho, who is on the Central GST council, said that the need for lower taxes and uniform taxation on the shipping sector would be discussed at the coming GST council meeting.