GST Compensation Cess: Impact, Mechanism, and Role

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GST Compensation Cess is one of the important provisions of the Indian taxation system under GST (Compensation to States) Act 2017. First, it was aimed at extending financial support to states experiencing revenue losses on account of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The compensation was first promised for a period of five years from the rollout of GST on July 1, 2017. The logic behind GST compensation is to cushion the ill effects of economic disturbances on states, particularly those with a strong manufacturing base, in their transition to consumption-based tax regime.

Evolution and Implementation of GST Compensation

The introduction of GST in India was really a major moment on the consolidation of taxes. However, it also raised concerns, especially among states heavily reliant on manufacturing revenue. The states were afraid of losses that might be incurred under the GST regime.

As per the central government, this would be taken care of through GST compensation. Under the arrangement, the states which record a shortfall in their revenues compared to a growth rate of 14% (according to a 2015-16 baseline till 2022) would receive compensation for a period of five years. This compensation was funded through a cess levied on luxury and sin goods.

As expected, this teamwork approach of bringing states’ representatives in the Goods and Services Tax Council went a long way toward getting state buy-in on the taxation measure. This ensured that the states had an equal footing to those at the central government level in decision-making.

Which Goods are Subject to the Compensation Cess?

The compensation cess is designed to offset loss in revenue for the states in the initial years following the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) under the new indirect tax regime. This means certain items will levy a surcharge/cess over and above the standard GST rates. Here is a list of products that are subject to this additional charge:

Category Goods GST Compensation Cess
Tobacco Products Cut tobacco 0.14 ₹/unit
Tobacco (unmanufactured, with/without lime tube, branded) 0.36 ₹/unit
Branded tobacco refuse 0.32 ₹/unit
Tobacco extracts and essence (with/without brand name) 0.36 ₹/unit
Filter khaini, Jarda scented tobacco 0.56 ₹/unit
Cheroots, Cigar, Cigarillos 21% or 4170 /thousand
Cigarettes (various lengths) 5% + 2076 to 3668/thousand
Tobacco substitutes (Cigarettes, Cigarillos) 4006/thousand or 12.5%
Smoking mixtures, hookah tobacco 0.08 ₹ to 0.36 ₹/unit or 290%
Chewing tobacco, Pan masala with tobacco 0.36 ₹ to 0.61 ₹/unit
Beverages Aerated waters, Lemonade 12%
Vehicles Motorcycles (>350 cc), Aircrafts, Yachts 3%
Motor vehicles (≤13 persons), Specific engine capacities 15% to 22%
Petrol, LPG, CNG vehicles (≤1200cc) 1%
Diesel vehicles (≤1500cc) 3%
Vehicles (≤1500 cc or >1500 cc, including SUVs) 17% to 22%
Other Goods Coal, solid fuels 400 ₹/tonne

This table summarises the goods covered under the GST compensation cess, along with their respective cess rates, as outlined in the GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017, which is subject to amendments over time.

Mechanism of GST Compensation

In essence, the overall mechanism of GST compensation has a few of its important elements in it. At first, the compensation cess is being levied on selected goods and services, mainly luxury and sin goods. The taxpayers supplying these items, other than exporters and composition taxpayers, are liable to collect the amount of compensation cess.

For this, the compensation cess is collected and the funds so collected are used to pay compensation to states.  The compensation is paid according to a formula which takes into account the difference  in  potential revenue (in case of no GST) and actual revenue of a state.

The compensation is paid to the states from time to time, on a provisional compensation bais every two months. Any residue in the compensation fund at the end of the five-year transition period shall be divided between the central government and the states in such a manner as may be formulated. 

Impact Analysis of GST Compensation

The significance attached to the GST compensation in the state finances and the overall Indian economy cannot be underlooked. It was a cushion to states during the transition into the Goods and Services Tax regime whereby they were cushioned so that they did not suffer immediate revenue shocks. The compensation allowed states to continue their operations and essential services without disruptions.

Moreover, the mechanism of compensation provided room for central-state cooperation where both the governments can rely on and work together toward fiscal matters. This cooperative approach proved to be rewarding when it comes to dealing with economic crises like that of COVID-19.

Role of GST Compensation in Government Finances

Crucially, GST compensation has stabilised the state finances that would have otherwise seen serious disruptions. It assured predictable revenue flow to states so that they plan their budgets and deliver essential services.

The compensation cess on luxury goods and sin goods had turned out to be a huge contributing factor for the central government’s revenue, enabling it to fulfil its commitment of compensating states. This had ensured that there was no abrupt revenue shortfall seen in the states keeping their financial stability intact.

The cooperative federalism model further extended and bolstered the central-state linkage that was established by the GST Council. It routed a collective approach to tax deliberation and produced a feel of ownership in the states regarding the Goods and Services Tax system.

Challenges and Controversies Surrounding GST Compensation

While the GST compensation served purposefully, it was however not all easy without challenges and controversies. One of the major challenges faced was the economic downturn brought in by the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic accounted for revenue shortfalls that put the compensation fund under great strain, leading to discussions on how to bridge the gap.

There were also controversies that cropped up in relation to the distribution of compensation dues. The central government had to borrow to meet its commitment to states, and the issue of repayment and interest became contentious.

Evaluating GST Compensation Mechanism’s Effectiveness

Hence, the role played by the GST compensation mechanism for stabilising state finances in the first couple of years of GST implementation has been positive, since it ensures security to the states and provides assistance in a critical transition phase.

However, challenges that included the economic impact of the pandemic revealed weaknesses in the mechanism. A massive need for a more sustainable and robust approach to handling revenue shortfalls as well as dealing with the compensation fund was displayed.

The societal implications of the GST compensation mechanism are huge considering that it impacts directly to the spending patterns of the government with regard to services and infrastructures. A stable and effective system ensures that states can maintain essential services, affecting the quality of life and economic opportunities for the common man.

Future Prospects and Recommendations

The GST compensation mechanism has been extended till March, 2026. Having said that, it naturally becomes a necessity to look at future prospects and recommendations. This essentially means that in case of no assured revenue protection, states need to look into alternative avenues which could help them augment fiscal capacity. This may be in the form of tax analytics, the strengthening of the mechanism of compliance monitoring, focusing on the service sector, and cooperative federalism.


As evident from the above discussion, GST compensation has remained as one of the most dynamic aspects of taxation in India during the initial year of roll out of GST. It was a very helpful financial support to states in developing basic infrastructure facilities needed for development and also to promote cooperational federalism. But later, many implementation challenges and controversies rising out of this experience have pointed to the need for a more sustainable approach. In proceeding, it will be a necessity that the states take proactive measures and work collaboratively towards fiscal stability, growth in revenues, and development of the economy.

Also Read: GST Calculator Online – Simplify Your Daily Finances And Taxes

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What is GST Compensation and why was it introduced in the Indian taxation system?

GST Compensation, introduced through Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act 2017, aims at compensating states for revenue loss that they might incur due to implementation of GST, especially the manufacturing heavy states as GST is a consumption-based tax.

  • How does the mechanism of GST Compensation function, and what is the basis for calculating compensation amounts?

As the process goes on, a compensation is derived by calculating the difference amount to the projected revenue of a state (if GST had not been implemented) and the actual revenue accumulated for that period. This compensation is drawn from the compensation cess levied through GST.

  • What are the goods and services coming under the purview of compensation cess, and how cess rates are determined?

A compensation cess is levied on a wide variety of goods which include tobacco products, motor vehicles, and aerated waters. The rates are prescribed in the GST (compensation to states) Act and are subject to differ from one good to another.

  • Who is responsible for collecting GST compensation cess, and how is it utilised?

The GST compensation cess shall be collected by the taxpayers who have made outward supply of specific goods or services, except the exporters and composition taxpayers. The said cess can be used only to set-off the liability of compensation cess arising out of such outward supply.

  • How has GST Compensation helped states during challenging times, such as the economic impact of the pandemic?

GST Compensation was important in supporting states during challenging times as the pandemic. The central govt through borrowings cleared pending dues and these showed lend of commitment to assist states, which were facing revenues decline.

  • What were the concerns of states initially regarding the GST regime and how these concerns were addressed to make them agree for it?

Initially, the States were reserved against distribution of revenue, loss of power in tax rate fixation and fear regarding revenue loss during the transition to GST. All these had been addressed by making provisions for autonomy in taxing on alcohol and petroleum products, assuring the adequate compensation of revenue, creating the GST Council.

  • Now that the GST compensation period has ended, what are the steps the states can and have to look at alternative sources for revenue?

In the absence of assured revenue protection, tax analytics, compliance monitoring, tailoring measures to the non-compliant taxpayers and focusing on service industry for enhancing the revenue collection can be viewed as the strategies that states can adopt in maximising their revenue.

  • How will fostering cooperative federalism among the states be able to enhance revenue collection and economic development in the post-GST Compensation scenario?

Promoting cooperative federalism involves states collaborating and adhering to GST principles, avoiding any territorial disputes, and creating a business-friendly environment. This approach can boost taxpayer confidence, encourage compliance, and drive sustainable revenue growth and economic development.

  • Can states continue to utilise GST Compensation cess, and what is the future outlook for this mechanism?

The GST Compensation cess period has been extended until March 2026. However, states will not receive a share from the proceeds of this extended levy. States must now focus on alternative revenue sources and fiscal strategies to maintain financial stability.

  • What role does GST Compensation play in safeguarding the interests of manufacturing-heavy states, and how does it contribute to economic balance among states?

GST Compensation tends to mitigate revenue losses for states that are heavily reliant on manufacturing with an assurance of compensation in case they happen to lose revenue, and it partially aids ensuring the economic balance too. It is considered one of the safeguard measures behind maintaining fair financial stability amongst states under the GST regime.

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Deepti Goel
Deepti is an MBA Post- Graduate who transitioned into content writing last 5+years ago. She has a penchant for breaking down complex financial subjects into digestible content. Besides writing, Deepti consults clients on marketing strategies and brand growth strategies, through her Content, knack for explaining intricate financial matters in a straightforward manner makes her writings accessible for readers. In her downtime, Deepti enjoys exploring the outdoors and is an avid traveler.

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