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Union Budget 2018: PART B – Tax Proposals

PART B: Tax Proposals

  1. The attempts made by our Government for reducing the cash economy and for increasing the tax net have paid rich dividends. The growth rate of direct taxes in the financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18 has been significant. We ended the last year with a growth of 6% in direct taxes and in the current year, the growth in direct taxes up to 15th January, 2018 is 18.7%. The average buoyancy in personal income tax of seven years preceding these two years comes to 1.1. In simple terms tax buoyancy of 1.1 means that if nominal GDP growth rate of the country is 10%, the growth rate of personal income tax is 11%. However, the buoyancy in personal income tax for financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18 (RE) is 1.95 and 2.11 respectively. This indicates that the excess revenue collected in the last two financial years from personal income tax compared to the average buoyancy pre 2016-17 amounts to a total of about `90,000 crores and the same can be attributed to the strong anti-evasion measures taken by the Government.
  2. Similarly, there has been huge increase in the number of returns filed by taxpayers. In financial year 2016-17, 51 lakhs new taxpayers filed their returns of income as against 66.26 lakhs in the immediately preceding year. By including all filers as well as persons who did not file returns but paid tax by way of advance tax or TDS, we can derive the figure of Effective Taxpayer Base. This number of effective tax payer base increased from 6.47 crores at the beginning of F.Y.14-15 to 8.27 crores at the end of F.Y.16-17. We are enthused by this success of our measures and we pledge to continue to take all such measures in future by which the black money is contained and the honest taxpayers are rewarded. Demonetization was received well by honest taxpayers as “imandari ka utsav” only for this reason.
  3. Madam Speaker, recognising the need for facilitating compliance, Government had liberalized the presumptive income scheme for small traders and entrepreneurs with annual turnover of less than `2 crores and introduced a similar scheme for professionals with annual turnover of less than `50 lakhs with the hope that there would be significant increase in compliance. Under this scheme, 41% more returns were filed during this year which shows that many more persons are joining the tax net under simplified scheme. However, the turnover shown is still not encouraging. The Department has received 72 lakh returns for assessment year
    2017-18 from individual, HUF and firms with a meagre average turnover of `17.97 lakhs and an average tax payment of `7,000/- only. The tax compliance behaviour of professionals is no better; the department has received 5.68 lakh returns under the presumptive income scheme for assessment year 2017-18 with average gross receipts of `5.73 lakhs only. Average tax paid by them is only `35,000/-.

Tax incentive for promoting post-harvest activities of agriculture

4. Madam Speaker, at present, hundred percent deduction is allowed in respect of profit of co-operative societies which provide assistance to its members engaged in primary agricultural activities. Over the last few years, a number of Farmer Producer Companies have been set up along the lines of co-operative societies which also provide similar assistance to their members. In order to encourage professionalism in post-harvest value addition in agriculture, I propose to allow hundred percent deduction to these companies registered as Farmer Producer Companies and having annual turnover up to `100 crores in respect of their profit derived from such activities for a period of five years from the financial year 2018-19. This measure will encourage “Operation Greens” mission announced by me earlier and it will give a boost to Sampada Yojana.

Employment generation

5. Currently, a deduction of 30% is allowed in addition to normal deduction of 100 % in respect of emoluments paid to eligible new employees who have been employed for a minimum period of 240 days during the year under section 80-JJAA of the Income-tax Act. However, the minimum period of employment is relaxed to 150 days in the case of the apparel industry. In order to encourage the creation of new employment, I propose to extend this relaxation to footwear and leather industry. Further, I also propose to rationalize this deduction of 30% by allowing the benefit for a new employee who is employed for less than the minimum period during the first year but continues to remain employed for the minimum period in the subsequent year.

Incentive for real estate

6. Currently, while taxing income from capital gains, business profits and other sources in respect of transactions in immovable property, the consideration or circle rate value, whichever is higher, is adopted and the difference is counted as income both in the hands of the purchaser and seller. Sometimes, this variation can occur in respect of different properties in the same area because of a variety of factors including the shape of the plot and location. In order to minimize hardship in real estate transaction,
I propose to provide that no adjustment shall be made in a case where the circle rate value does not exceed 5% of the consideration.

Incentivising micro, small and medium entrepreneurs

7. In the Union Budget, 2017, I had announced the reduction of the corporate tax rate to 25% for companies whose turnover was less than `50 crore in the financial year 2015-16. This benefitted 96% of the total companies filing tax returns. Towards the fulfillment of my promise to reduce corporate tax rate in a phased manner, I now propose to extend the benefit of this reduced rate of 25% also to companies who have reported turnover up to `250 crore in the financial year 2016-17. This will benefit the entire class of micro, small and medium enterprises which accounts for almost 99% of companies filing their tax returns. The estimate of revenue forgone due to this measure is `7,000 crores during the financial year 2018-19. After this, out of about 7 lakh companies filing returns, about 7,000 companies which file returns of income and whose turnover is above `250 crores will remain in 30% slab. The lower corporate income tax rate for 99% of the companies will leave them with a higher investible surplus which in turn will create more jobs.

Relief to salaried taxpayers

8. The Government had made many positive changes in the personal income-tax rate applicable to individuals in the last three years. Therefore, I do not propose to make any further change in the structure of the income tax rates for individuals. There is a general perception in the society that individual business persons have better income as compared to salaried class. However, income tax data analysis suggests that major portion of personal income-tax collection comes from the salaried class.
For assessment year 2016-17, 89 crore salaried individuals have filed their returns and have paid total tax of `1.44 lakh crores which works out to average tax payment of `76,306/- per individual salaried taxpayer. As against this, 1.88 crores individual business taxpayers including professionals, who filed their returns for the same assessment year paid total tax of `48,000 crores which works out to an average tax payment of `25,753/- per individual business taxpayer. In order to provide relief to salaried taxpayers, I propose to allow a standard deduction of `40,000/- in lieu of the present exemption in respect of transport allowance and reimbursement of miscellaneous medical expenses. However, the transport allowance at enhanced rate shall continue to be available to differently- abled persons.

Also other medical reimbursement benefits in case of hospitalization etc., for all employees shall continue. Apart from reducing paper work and compliance, this will help middle class employees even more in terms of reduction in their tax liability. This decision to allow standard deduction shall significantly benefit the pensioners also, who normally do not enjoy any allowance on account of transport and medical expenses. The revenue cost of this decision is approximately `8,000 crores. The total number of salaried employees and pensioners who will benefit from this decision is around 2.5 crores.

Relief to senior citizen

9. A life with dignity is a right of every individual in general, more so for the senior citizens. To care of those who cared for us is one of the highest honors. To further the objective of providing a dignified life, I propose to announce the following incentives for senior citizens:

  • Exemption of interest income on deposits with banks and post offices to be increased from `10,000/- to `50,000/- and TDS shall not be required to be deducted on such income, under section 194A. This benefit shall be available also for interest from all fixed deposits schemes and recurring deposit schemes.
  • Raising the limit of deduction for health insurance premium and/ or medical expenditure from `30,000/- to `50,000/-, under section 80D. All senior citizens will now be able to claim the benefit of a deduction up to `50,000/- per annum in respect of any health insurance premium and/or any general medical expenditure incurred.
  • Raising the limit of deduction for medical expenditure in respect of certain critical illness from, `60,000/- in case of senior citizens and from `80,000/- in case of very senior citizens, to `1 lakh in respect of all senior citizens, under section 80DDB.

These concessions will give extra tax benefit of `4,000 crores to senior citizens. In addition to tax concessions, I propose to extend the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana up to March 2020 under which an assured return of 8% is given by Life Insurance Corporation of India. The existing limit on investment of `7.5 lakh per senior citizen under this scheme is also being enhanced to `15 lakh.

Tax incentive for International Financial Services Centre (IFSC)

10. The Government had endeavoured to develop a world class international financial services centre in India. In recent years, various measures including tax incentives have been provided in order to fulfil this objective. To further this objective, I propose to provide two more concessions for IFSC. In order to promote trade in stock exchanges located in IFSC, I propose to exempt transfer of derivatives and certain securities by non-residents from capital gains tax. Further, non-corporate taxpayers operating in IFSC shall be charged Alternate Minimum Tax (AMT) at concessional rate of 9% at par with Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) applicable for corporates.

Further Measures to control cash economy:

11. Currently, the income of trusts and institutions is exempt if they utilise their income towards their objects in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Income-tax Act. However, there is no restriction on these entities for incurring expenditure in cash. In order to have audit trail of the expenses incurred by these entities, it is proposed that payments exceeding `10,000/- in cash made by such entities shall be disallowed and the same shall be subject to tax. Further, in order to improve TDS compliance by these entities, I propose to provide that in case of non-deduction of tax, 30% of the amount shall be disallowed and the same shall be taxed.

Rationalisation of Long Term Capital Gains (LTCG)

12. Madam Speaker, currently, long term capital gains arising from transfer of listed equity shares, units of equity oriented fund and unit of a business trust are exempt from tax. With the reforms introduced by the Government and incentives given so far, the equity market has become buoyant. The total amount of exempted capital gains from listed shares and units is around `3,67,000 crores as per returns filed for Y.17-18. Major part of this gain has accrued to corporates and LLPs. This has also created a bias against manufacturing, leading to more business surpluses being invested in financial assets. The return on investment in equity is already quite attractive even without tax exemption. There is therefore a strong case for bringing long term capital gains from listed equities in the tax net. However, recognising the fact that vibrant equity market is essential for economic growth, I propose only a modest change in the present regime.

I propose to tax such long term capital gains exceeding `1 lakh at the rate of 10% without allowing the benefit of any indexation. However, all gains up to 31st January, 2018 will be grandfathered. For example, if an equity share is purchased six months before 31st January, 2018 at `100/- and the highest price quoted on 31st January, 2018 in respect of this share is `120/-, there will be no tax on the gain of `20/- if this share is sold after one year from the date of purchase. However, any gain in excess of `20 earned after 31st January, 2018 will be taxed at 10% if this share is sold after 31st July, 2018. The gains from equity share held up to one year will remain short term capital gain and will continue to be taxed at the rate of 15%. Further, I also propose to introduce a tax on distributed income by equity oriented mutual fund at the rate of 10%. This will provide level playing field across growth oriented funds and dividend distributing funds. In view of grandfathering, this change in capital gain tax will bring marginal revenue gain of about `20,000 crores in the first year. The revenues in subsequent years may be more.

Health and Education Cess

13. Madam Speaker, at present there is a three per cent cess on personal income tax and corporation tax consisting of two per cent cess for primary education and one per cent cess for secondary and higher education. In order to take care of the needs of education and health of BPL and rural families, I have announced programs in Part A of my speech. To fund this, I propose to increase the cess by one per cent. The existing three per cent education cess will be replaced by a four per cent “Health and Education Cess” to be levied on the tax payable. This will enable us to collect an estimated additional amount of `11,000 crores.

E-assessment.

14. We had introduced e-assessment in 2016 on a pilot basis and in 2017, extended it to 102 cities with the objective of reducing the interface between the department and the taxpayers. With the experience gained so far, we are now ready to roll out the E-assessment across the country, which will transform the age-old assessment procedure of the income tax department and the manner in which they interact with taxpayers and other stakeholders. Accordingly, I propose to amend the Income-tax Act to notify a new scheme for assessment where the assessment will be done in electronic mode which will almost eliminate person to person contact leading to greater efficiency and transparency.

Indirect Tax.

15. On the Indirect Taxes side, this is the first budget after the roll out of the Goods and Service Tax. Excise duties to a large extent and service tax have been subsumed in GST, along with corresponding duties on imports. Hence, my budget proposals are mainly on the customs side.

16. In this budget, I am making a calibrated departure from the underlying policy in the last two decades, wherein the trend largely was to reduce the customs duty. There is substantial potential for domestic value addition in certain sectors, like food processing, electronics, auto components, footwear and furniture. To further incentivise the domestic value addition and Make in India in some such sectors, I propose to increase customs duty on certain items. I propose to increase customs duty on mobile phones from 15% to 20%, on some of their parts and accessories to 15% and on certain parts of TVs to 15%. This measure will promote creation of more jobs in the country. Details of changes made in rates of customs duty as well as certain changes made in the excise duty structure are given in Annexure 6 to my speech.

17. To help the cashew processing industry, I propose to reduce customs duty on raw cashew from 5% to 2.5%.

18. I propose to abolish the Education Cess and Secondary and Higher Education Cess on imported goods, and in its place impose a Social Welfare Surcharge, at the rate of 10% of the aggregate duties of Customs, on imported goods, to provide for social welfare schemes of the Government. Goods which were hitherto exempt from Education Cesses on imported goods will, however, be exempt from this Surcharge. In addition, certain specified goods, mentioned in the Annexure 6 to my speech will attract the proposed Surcharge at the rate of 3% of the aggregate duties of customs only.

19. I also propose to make certain changes to the Customs Act, 1962, to further improve ease of doing business in cross border trade, and to align certain provisions with the commitments under the Trade Facilitation Agreement. To smoothen dispute resolution processes and to reduce litigation, certain amendments are being made, to provide for pre-notice consultation, definite timelines for adjudication and deemed closure of cases if those timelines are not adhered to.

20. With the roll out of GST, I propose to change the name of Central Board of Excise and Customs [CBEC] to Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC). The necessary changes in law for this are proposed in the Finance Bill.

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