Difference Between VAT and CST

Taxation is a complicated subject. Taxes are categorized into direct taxes and indirect taxes. Direct Tax is the tax that people directly pay to the government, for example, income tax.

There are multiple types of taxes on the indirect tax domain, However, VAT and CST form the main taxes which most people will be familiar with.


The main difference between VAT and CST is that VAT is a type of indirect tax that is imposed at multiple phases of production or distribution, while CST is an indirect tax that is imposed on sales conducted between states i.e. interstate sales.

VAT vs CST 1

However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on certain parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:


Comparison Table Between VAT and CST (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonVATCST
Full-FormValue Added TaxCentral Sales Tax
Stage of ProductionLevied at each stage of production or distributionCST is not levied on any stages in production or distribution. It is levied on the final sale.
ConcessionsLess concessions are available under VAT. There may be certain goods on which no VAT may be applicable.There are concessions and exemptions available both general and specific
Nature of TaxMultiple-points tax as the tax is levied on multiple stages of production or distributionOne-point tax as it is only levied on final sales
Applicable LawValue Added Tax Act, 2005 and associated rules and procedures established under the same govern the VAT system in IndiaThe Central Sales Tax Act 1956 and associated rules and procedures established under the same govern the CST system in India
Input Tax CreditThere is a facility of Input Tax credit on VATThere is no facility of Input Tax credit on CST
ComplexityVAT is a complex tax as levied on multiple stages and with different ratesLess complex because it is only levied on final sale
Scope for Double TaxationNot possiblePossible
Scope for tax evasionLess chancesMore chances
PrevalenceApplicability since recent timesApplicable since many decades
ReplacementVAT has replaced CST in recent timesCST has been replaced with VAT


What is VAT?

VAT means Value-Added Tax. VAT is a type of indirect tax or consumption tax. VAT is called an indirect tax because it is indirectly paid by the end customer when they are procuring the goods or services from manufacturers or retailers. VAT is levied at various phases of production or distribution.

Again, the rates may differ from one State to another.  VAT applies to all the goods and services whether they are developed in India or sourced from outside.

VAT registration is compulsory depending on the threshold load and other factors. Non-registration under VAT is an offense under the law and certain fines or sanctions can be imposed by the governmental authorities.

VAT is payable to the government on specified dates (usually monthly) as per the rules in force and certain returns may also need to be filed.

VAT calculation can be done by various methods but VAT is a very complex area and the VAT phenomenon is quite new from the Indian perspective.

vat 1

What is CST?

CST means Central Sales Tax. CST is an indirect tax. CST is a type of tax being levied on interstate sales. Although CST is applicable on interstate sales, the State Government has the power to levy CST on sales conducted within the State as well.

CST applies to all goods and services whether they are developed in India or procured from outside. CST collected is payable on due dates (usually monthly) and certain returns need to be filed.

CST has been in prevalence in India for a long time. However, CST is fraught with multiple problems such as cascading effect (double taxation), and the possibility of tax evasion.

The Central Sales Tax 1956 and related rules in India specify the applicable provisions for CST. Many states may also have their own sales tax laws.


Main Differences Between VAT and CST

  1. VAT has the mechanism of Input Tax credit. CST does not have any methods of Input Tax Credit.
  2. VAT does not or has less chances of tax evasion or double taxation. CST is fraught with problems on tax evasion and double taxation.



The law mandates certain filing of returns and depositing tax with the government and indirect taxes are fraught with complex rules and regulations.

In recent times, many states in India have replaced CST with VAT to overcome the negative effects of double taxation and tax evasion being caused by CST.

Therefore, considering these complexities, it is highly advisable to gain expert advice from tax or accountancy professionals to ensure that businesses stay compliant with the governmental mandates at all times.


  1. https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/206/1/MPRA_paper_206.pdf
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0377221703007409
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