Understanding Sales Tax and GST: A Comprehensive Guide

17 May 2024

In the world of commerce and trade, taxes play a crucial role in shaping economies and influencing consumer behavior. Among the various types of taxes, Sales Tax and Goods and Services Tax (GST) are two significant forms that often come up in discussions. This blog aims to shed light on what these taxes are, how they work, and their implications for businesses and consumers.

What is Sales Tax?

Sales Tax is a consumption tax imposed by the government on the sale of goods and services. It is typically a percentage of the sale price and is collected by the retailer at the point of sale. The retailer then remits the tax to the government. Sales Tax is generally applied at the state or local level, and the rate can vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Key Features of Sales Tax:

  1. Varies by State and Locality: Different states and localities may have different sales tax rates. Some areas may also have additional local sales taxes.
  2. Collected at Point of Sale: The tax is collected by the seller at the time of the transaction and then paid to the government.
  3. Exemptions and Exclusions: Certain items may be exempt from sales tax, such as groceries, prescription drugs, and services, depending on the state’s regulations. For more details, visit the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).


If you purchase a piece of furniture for ₹10,000 in a state with a 7% sales tax, you will pay an additional ₹700 in sales tax, bringing the total cost to ₹10,700.

What is GST?

Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a comprehensive, multi-stage, destination-based tax levied on every value addition. Unlike Sales Tax, which is typically levied only on goods, GST applies to both goods and services. It is designed to create a uniform tax structure across the country, eliminating the cascading effect of multiple taxes.

Key Features of GST:

  1. Uniform Taxation: GST is levied at a national level, creating uniformity in tax rates across the country.
  2. Input Tax Credit: Businesses can claim a credit for the GST paid on inputs (goods and services used in production), reducing the overall tax burden.
  3. Eliminates Cascading Effect: GST replaces various indirect taxes, such as excise duty, VAT, and service tax, thereby removing the tax-on-tax effect.
  4. Destination-Based: GST is collected at the point of consumption, meaning the tax revenue goes to the state where the goods or services are consumed. For detailed guidelines, refer to the Goods and Services Tax Council.

Types of GST in India:

  1. CGST (Central Goods and Services Tax): Levied by the Central Government on intra-state supplies.
  2. SGST (State Goods and Services Tax): Levied by the State Government on intra-state supplies.
  3. IGST (Integrated Goods and Services Tax): Levied on inter-state supplies and imports.


If a manufacturer in Maharashtra sells goods worth ₹10,000 to a retailer in Karnataka, IGST is applied. If the IGST rate is 18%, the retailer in Karnataka will pay ₹1,800 in tax, and the total cost will be ₹11,800. The retailer can later claim an input tax credit for the ₹1,800 paid when they sell the goods.

For more detail read our blog on:-Types of GST

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Differences Between Sales Tax and GST

Differences Between Sales Tax and GST
Aspect Sales Tax GST
Scope Generally limited to the sale of goods Covers both goods and services
Uniformity Rates can vary widely by state and locality Aims for uniform rates across the country
Tax Credit Does not allow for input tax credits Allows for input tax credits, reducing the tax burden on businesses
Application Level Typically applied at the state or local level Applied at a national level with CGST, SGST, and IGST
Cascading Effect May lead to a cascading effect (tax on tax) Eliminates the cascading effect
Point of Collection Collected at the point of sale by the retailer Collected at various stages of production and distribution
Destination-Based Not typically destination-based Collected at the point of consumption
Regulations Varies by state and locality, leading to multiple compliance requirements Uniform regulations across the country

Implications for Businesses and Consumers

For Businesses:

  • Compliance: Businesses need to comply with various regulations and ensure timely filing of returns under both tax systems.
  • Pricing: The tax structure influences pricing strategies and profit margins.
  • Input Tax Credit: GST provides relief through input tax credits, potentially lowering costs and improving cash flow.

For Consumers:

  • Cost of Goods and Services: The type and rate of tax directly impact the final price consumers pay.
  • Transparency: GST offers more transparency in the tax structure compared to Sales Tax.


Understanding Sales Tax and GST is crucial for both businesses and consumers. While Sales Tax is a more traditional form of taxation with its complexities, GST offers a more streamlined and uniform approach. Both taxes play significant roles in revenue generation for governments and impact economic activities. Being aware of how these taxes function helps in better financial planning and compliance.

Related blog:-
Introduction to Indian Business Taxation
Difference between Direct and Indirect Tax

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