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Indian Budget 2006-07- Full Text
Full Text of P. Chidambaram, Minister of Finance, Budget Speech(Feb 28, 2006)



119. I shall begin with my proposals on indirect taxes. Firstly, customs duties.

120. In line with the Government’s policy of reducing customs duties, I propose to reduce the peak rate for non-agricultural products from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent. I believe that we are now only a short distance away from East Asian rates.

121. As the peak rate comes down, there is a need to reduce the duty on raw materials and intermediates.

122. The duty on primary steel is at 5 per cent. I propose to reduce the duty on alloy steel and primary and secondary non-ferrous metals from 10 per cent to 7.5 per cent. This will also be the rate of duty for ferro alloys.

123. In 2004-05, in view of the high international prices of steel, I had reduced the import duty on steel melting scrap to zero. With prices of steel coming down, I propose to restore the duty to 5 per cent and bring it on par with primary steel.

124. The duty on mineral products is now 15 per cent. I propose to reduce it to 5 per cent, with a few exceptions.

125. I also propose to reduce the duty on ores and concentrates from 5 per cent to 2 per cent.

126. Refractories attract a duty of 10 per cent. A number of materials required for manufacture of refractories are also at 10 per cent or higher rates. I propose to reduce these duties to 7.5 per cent.

127. Basic inorganic chemicals are crucial raw materials. I propose to reduce the duty from 15 per cent to 10 per cent. On basic cyclic and acyclic hydrocarbons and their derivatives, I propose to bring down the rate to 5 per cent. I also propose to reduce the duty on catalysts from 10 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

128. Plastics are important raw materials. Hence, I propose to reduce the duty on major bulk plastics like PVC, LDPE and PP from 10 per cent to 5 per cent. Simultaneously, the duty on naptha for plastics will be reduced to nil.

129. I propose to reduce the duty on styrene, EDC and VCM which are raw materials for plastics to 2 per cent.

130. I propose to give some concessions to vital drugs. I propose to reduce the customs duty on 10 anti-AIDS and 14 anti-cancer drugs to 5 per cent. I also propose to reduce the duty on certain life saving drugs, kits and equipment from 15 per cent to 5 per cent. These drugs will also be exempt from excise duty and countervailing duty (CVD).

131. Packaging machines serve a wide variety of industries, including food processing. I propose to reduce the duty on packaging machines from 15 per cent to 5 per cent.

132. I propose to extend the concessional project rate of 10 per cent to pipeline projects for transportation of natural gas, crude petroleum and petroleum products.

133. Honourable Members would recall that last year I had taken the power to impose a CVD on all imports to compensate for State level taxes. This levy was applied only to imports of ITA bound items and their inputs, except IT software. After the introduction of VAT in most States, I have received representations from trade and industry that this levy should be extended to all imports. The argument is persuasive, and I propose to impose a CVD of 4 per cent on all imports with a few exceptions. Full credit of this duty will be allowed to manufacturers of excisable goods.

134. In order to protect the domestic vanaspati industry, I propose to increase the customs duty on vanaspati to 80 per cent, the rate applicable to crude palm oil.

135. Export oriented units (EOUs) are allowed to clear their goods to the Domestic Tariff Area (DTA) at a concessional rate. With declining import duties, DTA units and EOUs should have a level playing field as regards excise duty or CVD. Hence, I propose to adjust the duty rates on clearances by EOUs to the DTA at 25 per cent of basic customs duty plus excise duty on like goods. This will still give the EOU a tariff advantage or, at any rate, in most cases, it will be on par with a DTA unit.

136. Finally, I have an important proposal that involves both excise and customs duties. Cotton textile industry has greatly benefited from the relief granted two years ago. The man-made textile industry is a growth- and employment-driver. It deserves encouragement. Hence, I propose to reduce the excise duty on all man-made fibre yarn and filament yarn from 16 per cent to 8 per cent. Simultaneously, I propose to reduce the import duty on all man-made fibres and yarns from 15 per cent to 10 per cent. Consequently, the import duty on raw materials such as DMT, PTA and MEG will also be reduced from 15 per cent to 10 per cent. The import duty on paraxylene is proposed to be reduced to 2 per cent.

137. I have a few proposals on the excise side. I reiterate that it is our intention to converge all rates at the CENVAT rate which is now at 16 per cent. There are only two items – aerated drinks and cars – that still attract the higher rate of 24 per cent. I propose to correct this substantially. I propose to reduce the excise duty on aerated drinks to 16 per cent. On cars, I propose to reduce the excise duty to 16 per cent, but only for small cars. A small car, for this purpose, will mean a car of length not exceeding 4,000 mm and with an engine capacity not exceeding 1,500 cc for diesel cars and not exceeding 1,200 cc for petrol cars. I am confident that industry will seize the opportunity to make India a hub for the manufacture of small and fuel-efficient cars.

138. I propose to impose an 8 per cent excise duty on packaged software sold over the counter. Customized software and software packages downloaded from the internet will be exempt from this levy.

139. I propose to fully exempt from excise duty DVD Drives, Flash Drives and Combo Drives.

140. Many food items, including packaged items, attract nil excise duty. With a view to giving a fillip to the food processing industry, I propose to fully exempt from excise duty condensed milk, ice cream, preparations of meat, fish and poultry, pectins, pasta and yeast. Excise duty on ready-to-eat packaged foods and instant food mixes, like dosa and idli mixes, will be reduced from 16 per cent to 8 per cent.

141. Since leather and footwear are thrust sectors, I propose to exempt from excise duty two vegetable tanning extracts, namely, quebracho and chestnut. Footwear carrying a retail sale price up to Rs.250 is already exempt from excise duty. I propose to reduce excise duty on footwear with a retail sale price between Rs.250 and Rs.750 from 16 per cent to 8 per cent.

142. At present LPG stoves up to a value of Rs.2,000 attract excise duty of 8 per cent. I propose to extend the concessional rate to all LPG stoves without any value limit.

143. To promote the use of energy efficient lamps, I propose to reduce the excise duty on compact fluorescent lamps from 16 per cent to 8 per cent.

144. I propose to remove rate differences between different kinds of tableware and kitchenware. Consequently, glassware will attract excise duty of 16 per cent on par with ceramicware and plasticware.

145. Paper finds widespread use in education as well as in packaging. In order to encourage capacity addition, I propose to reduce excise duty on specified printing, writing and packing paper from 16 per cent to 12 per cent.

146. Domestically produced petroleum crude is subject to a cess under the Oil Industries Development Act. The rate of Rs.1,800 per metric tonne was fixed in 2002. After consulting the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, I propose to increase the cess to Rs.2,500 per MT. I have been assured that this increase will be absorbed by the oil producing companies and have no impact on retail prices of petroleum products.

147. There are two requests from trade and industry. I had exempted computers from excise duty in order to boost the use of computers. That purpose has been largely served. Domestic manufacturers have sought re-imposition of excise duty at 12 per cent in order to enable them to take CENVAT credit as well as to face competition from imports. I propose to accept the request. Since the 12 per cent excise duty will be eligible for full input tax credit, there should not be any impact on price.

148. The second request is to impose excise duty on set top boxes. I propose to accept the request and levy an excise duty of 16 per cent and, at the same time, reduce the customs duty from 15 per cent to nil. This change will equalize the duty rates on various types of set top boxes.

149. To round off, I would be failing in my duty if I did not raise the excise duty on cigarettes. Hence, I propose to increase the excise duty on cigarettes by about 5 per cent.

150. The bane of excise and customs tariffs is the plethora of exemptions. On the basis of a comprehensive review, I propose to remove many exemptions that were granted through notifications. Broadly, exemptions that are end-use based or have outlived their utility or need certification or give rise to disputes are being rescinded, with only a few exceptions. The exemption for the SSI sector will, however, remain unchanged.

151. We have also identified some more notifications which need to be removed. However, before taking a final view, I propose to put a list of such notifications on the Ministry’s website and invite comments.

152. This leaves service tax. In 2005-06, the services sector is estimated to contribute 54 per cent of GDP. Naturally, it should also contribute significantly to the exchequer. Continuing in the direction followed in the last few years, I propose to bring more services under the service tax net. The new services to be covered include ATM operations, maintenance and management; registrars, share transfer agents and bankers to an issue; sale of space or time, other than in the print media, for advertisements; sponsorship of events, other than sports events, by companies; international air travel excluding economy class passengers; container services on rail, excluding the railway freight charges; business support services; auctioneering; recovery agents; ship management services; travel on cruise ships; and public relations management services.

153. I also propose to expand the coverage of certain services now subject to service tax. I do not wish to burden the House with the details which are available in the Budget papers.

154. The leasing and hire purchase industry has faced some difficulty owing to the levy of service tax on all components of payments, including interest. I propose to rectify the anomaly. Accordingly, interest and instalments of the principal amount will be abated in calculating the value of the service.

155. It is my sense that there is a large consensus that the country should move towards a national level Goods and Services Tax (GST) that should be shared between the Centre and the States. I propose that we set April 1, 2010 as the date for introducing GST. World over, goods and services attract the same rate of tax. That is the foundation of a GST. People must get used to the idea of a GST. Hence, we must progressively converge the service tax rate and the CENVAT rate. I propose to take one step this year and increase the service tax rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent. Let me hasten to add that since service tax paid can be credited against service tax payable or excise duty payable, the net impact will be very small.

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