Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has rejected a U-turn by the government on the issue of a 1% excise duty on gold jewelry that he proposed in his budget. In an uncompromising speech in parliament, he described it as a tax on a luxury item, saying that gold had to be taxed since goods used by "common people" were taxed. These included items such soap, toothpaste, razor, pencil, ink, fruit juices and baby food. "Why should the luxury items be exempted from tax," he asked in response to a question from an MP.
He reiterated that the levy will only be imposed on corporate jewelers with a turnover of up to approximately $2 million last year. "Small jewelers and artisans are not covered within the ambit of this levy," he said. "We have to decide on which items we will impose excise duty and if there is any structured trade, they do not get the right to resort to agitation against tax," he said, referring to a lengthy closedown and protests by jewelers nationwide in the past two months.