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Indian Budget 2007-08- Full Text of Budget Speech

XIII. TAX PROPOSALS- Direct Taxes


160. I shall now move to direct taxes.

161. In the current year, there has been better tax compliance by individuals. I hope this trend will continue.

162. The current slabs and rates of personal income tax (PIT) were introduced only two years ago. They constitute a moderate tax regime. A comprehensive review should await the proposed Income Tax code which will be introduced in Parliament this year. Nevertheless, without altering the rates, I am inclined to consider giving some relief to tax payers, especially in view of the cooperation they have extended to the Department of Revenue. Accordingly, I propose that:

the threshold limit of exemption in the case of all assessees be increased by Rs.10,000, thus giving every assessee a relief of Rs.1,000;

consequently, in the case of a woman assessee, the threshold limit be increased from Rs.135,000 to Rs.145,000, giving her a relief of Rs.1,000;

the threshold limit of exemption in the case of a senior citizen be increased from Rs.185,000 to Rs.195,000, giving him or her a relief of Rs.2,000; and

the deduction in respect of medical insurance premium under section 80D be increased to a maximum of Rs.15,000 and, in the case of a senior citizen, a maximum of Rs.20,000.

163. On the corporate income tax (CIT) side too, there has been better compliance. Consequently, I propose to keep the same rate of CIT with one important modification. In order to encourage small and medium enterprises to invest and grow, I propose to remove the surcharge on income tax on all firms and companies with a taxable income of Rs.1 crore or less. This will benefit about 1,200,000 firms and companies.

164. Profit-making cooperative banks, other than primary societies and primary banks (i.e., PACs and PCARDBs), have been brought on par with other banks. However, I have noticed some anomalies and I propose to correct them in the interest of the cooperative banks. Accordingly, the benefit of Section 36(1)(viii) will be available to cooperative banks. Likewise, cooperative banks will also be allowed deduction in respect of provision for bad and doubtful debts under section 36(1)(viia). Amalgamation and de-merger of banking companies is tax neutral and this benefit will be extended to cooperative banks.

165. Section 80IA of the Income Tax Act lists the infrastructure facilities that are entitled to tax concessions. There are some obvious claimants to this benefit. One is cross country natural gas distribution network, including gas pipeline and storage facilities integrated to the network. The second is navigation channel in the sea. I propose to extend the tax concession to these two facilities.

166. In order to facilitate the creation of urban infrastructure, I propose to allow issue of tax-free bonds through State Pooled Finance Entities formed for raising funds for a group of urban local bodies.

167. Last year, I had constituted an expert body to advise the Government on tax policy in respect of the gem and jewellery industry. Taking into account its recommendations, the best international practices and the need for a simple tax regime, I propose to introduce a benign assessment procedure for assessees engaged in diamond manufacturing and trading who declare profits from such activities at 8 per cent or more of the turnover. Instructions in this regard will issue shortly.

168. We will require 20,000 more hotel rooms for the Commonwealth Games. Hence, I propose a five year holiday from income tax for two, three or four star hotels as well as for convention centres with a seating capacity of not less than 3,000. They should be completed and begin operations in the National Capital Territory of Delhi or in the adjacent districts of Faridabad, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad or Gautam Budh Nagar during the period April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2010.

169. Section 35(2AB) allows a weighted deduction of 150 per cent for expenditure relating to in-house research and development. I propose to extend the concession for five more years until March 31, 2012.

170. Undertakings in Jammu & Kashmir presently enjoy a tax holiday that is due to end on March 31, 2007. Considering the importance of promoting further investment in that State, I propose to extend the benefit for another five years up to March 31, 2012.

171. E-filing of corporate returns introduced this financial year has been a resounding success. Until January 31, 2007, 301,736 returns were electronically filed by corporates. Our analysis shows that the effective rate of tax paid by all corporates, thanks to numerous tax concessions and exemptions - several of them well-intended - was only 19.2 per cent. In 1996-97, we introduced the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) for companies with book profits, and its purpose is to bring about horizontal equity in taxation. MAT should therefore apply, as far as possible, to all corporate incomes. Hence, I propose to extend MAT to income in respect of which deduction is claimed under sections 10A and 10B of the Income Tax Act.

172. I also propose to partially modify a deduction that is available to certain companies. Without altering the overall limit of the special reserve equal to twice the net worth under section 36(1)(viii) of the Income Tax Act, I propose to stretch out the period by restricting the deduction to 20 per cent of the profits each year and limit the benefit to banks and certain financial corporations.

173. Venture capital funds are a useful source of risk capital, especially for start-up ventures in the knowledge-intensive sectors. Since such funds enjoy a pass-through status, it is necessary to limit the tax benefit to investments made in truly deserving sectors. Accordingly, I propose to grant pass-through status to venture capital funds only in respect of investments in venture capital undertakings in biotechnology; information technology relating to hardware and software development; nanotechnology; seed research and development; research and development of new chemical entities in the pharmaceutical sector; dairy industry; poultry industry; and production of bio-fuels. In order to promote business tourism, I also propose to allow this benefit to venture capital funds that invest in hotel-cum-convention centres of a certain description and size.

174. In December 2006, I put a limit of Rs.50 lakh per investor per year with respect to capital gains bonds issued by NHAI and REC under section 54EC of the Income Tax Act. As a result, many small investors could obtain these bonds and save on capital gains. I propose to continue this provision and, accordingly, I propose to amend section 54EC to that effect.

175. I propose to expand the tax base of capital gains to include certain works of art.

176. I believe that my direct tax proposals have brought about more horizontal equity. It is also necessary to improve vertical equity. Having regard to the capacity to pay, I propose to raise the rate of dividend distribution tax from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent on dividends distributed by companies.

177. Dividends distributed by money market mutual funds and liquid mutual funds enjoy concessional tax rates giving rise to huge arbitrage opportunities. I propose to address this distortion by raising the dividend distribution tax on dividends paid by such entities to 25 per cent for all investors.

178. Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) has now stabilized. I have received a few representations regarding some aspects of sales promotion. Hence, I propose to clarify the doubts by excluding expenditure on free samples as well as expenditure on displays from the scope of FBT.

179. A number of companies provide fringe benefits to employees through Employees' Stock Option Plan (ESOP). I propose to bring ESOPs under FBT. The value of the fringe benefit will be determined, in accordance with a prescribed method, on the date of exercise of the option.

180. The Banking Cash Transactions Tax (BCTT) continues to be an extremely useful tool to track unaccounted monies and trace their source and destination. It has led the Income Tax Department to many money laundering and hawala transactions. Having regard to the experience gained, I propose to exclude cash withdrawals by the Central and State Governments from the scope of BCTT. Further, I propose to raise the exemption limit for individuals and HUFs from Rs.25,000 to Rs.50,000. As other instruments become more effective, I think it would be possible to review BCTT next year.

181. I have a proposal regarding the cess for education. While the cess of 2 per cent on all taxes to fund basic education will remain, I propose to levy an additional cess of 1 per cent on all taxes to fund secondary education and higher education and the expansion of capacity by 54 per cent for reservation for socially and educationally backward classes.

182. Finally, there is a small matter which has large beneficial consequences. In 2001, 'Aviation Turbine Fuel sold to turbo-prop aircraft' was included in the list of declared goods under section 14 of the CST Act. Turbo-prop aircraft have been replaced by new generation small aircraft which have taken air services to smaller airports and to the remote parts of the country. Hence, I propose to amend the provision to cover all small aircraft with maximum takeoff mass of less than 40,000 kgs operated by scheduled airlines.

183. Along with tax reforms, the Government has laid great emphasis on tax administration. The cost of collection of taxes in India is among the lowest in the world. A number of administrative goals have been set for 2007-08. These include expanding the coverage of Annual Information Returns, extending the Refund Banker System to more areas, extending the e-payment facility through more banks, making electronic filing of returns mandatory for more categories of assessees and creating new Large Tax Payer Units.

184. My tax proposals on direct taxes are estimated to yield a gain of Rs.3,000 crore. On the indirect taxes side, the proposals are revenue neutral.

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