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Mar 02, 2010, 09.47 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

'Budget 2010: A non-event for common man'

'To call the new income tax return forms (that replaced the erstwhile Saral) complicated would be an understatement,' says Sandeep Shanbhag

'Budget 2010: A non-event for common man'
By Sandeep Shanbhag

As it transpired, for the common man, Budget 2010 turned out to more of a non-event. The most significant measure was the relaxation in tax slabs. That being said, I am a firm believer in the adage, No news is good news. Especially where our tax laws are concerned, the absence of any adverse measures is in itself a very strong positive.

In any case, the following are some of the key highlights of this years budget.

Relaxation in Personal Income Tax Slabs

The proposed new rates are as follows:

Income

Tax Rate

Up to Rs. 1,60,000

Nil

Rs. 1,60,001 to Rs. 5,00,000

10%

Rs. 5,00,001 to Rs. 8,00,000

20%

Above Rs. 8,00,000

30%



The enhanced basic exemption limits for ladies of Rs. 1,90,000 and for senior citizens of Rs. 2,40,000 remain unchanged.

(Rs.)

Income Level

 

Old Slabs

New Slabs

Savings

Male

4,00,000

35,020

24,720

10,300

6,00,000

86,520

55,620

30,900

8,00,000

1,48,320

96,820

51,500

Ladies

4,00,000

31,930

21,630

10,300

6,00,000

83,430

52,530

30,900

8,00,000

1,45,230

93,730

51,500

Senior Citizens 

4,00,000

26,780

16,480

10,300

6,00,000

78,280

47,380

30,900

8,00,000

1,40,080

88,580

51,500


Tax relaxations apply only to higher income group
As can be seen from the above table, everyone who earns an income of above Rs. 8 lakh would pay a lower tax of Rs. 51,500. However, what about the lower income group? Those who earn a taxable income of up to Rs. 3,00,000 have been totally ignored! They stand to gain nothing. Earlier they paid a tax of 10% on income above Rs. 1.60 lakh and with the revised slabs too, they continue to do so!

Saral II to be introduced
To call the new income tax return forms (that replaced the erstwhile Saral) complicated would be an understatement. However soon, taxpayers (at least the salaried class) can look forward to a two page simple and user friendly tax return form. Since this is just an announcement by the FM in his speech, when exactly will these forms be issued and to which category of taxpayers (apart from the salaried) is yet not clear. The income tax department should be coming out with a notification in this regard.

New Tax Deduction for investment in infrastructure bonds
The good news is that Budget 2010 has proposed a new Sec. 80CCF that will offer a deduction of up to Rs. 20,000 next year onwards for investment made in infrastructure bonds. The still better news is that this Rs. 20,000 is over and above the Rs. 1,00,000 Sec. 80C limit. The details as to the term of these bonds, the lock-in period, the issuing institutions etc. are yet to come out.

NPS (New Pension Scheme)
The NPS has not taken off as expected. Now the Government proposes to contribute Rs.1,000 per year to each NPS account opened in the year 2010-11. This initiative, "Swavalamban" will be available for persons who join NPS, with a minimum contribution of Rs.1,000 and a maximum contribution of Rs.12,000 per annum during the financial year 2010-11.

Service tax shocker
Though the rate of service tax has been kept constant @10% (and not raised to the erstwhile 12% as was generally expected), nonetheless, the fine print contains a shocker. In the Construction of complex service, it is being provided that unless the entire consideration for the property is paid after the completion of construction (i.e. after receipt of completion certificate from the competent authority), the activity of construction would be deemed to be a taxable service provided by the builder/promoter/developer to the prospective buyer and the service tax would be charged accordingly. This essentially means that under construction properties would become costlier. As of now, it is not clear as to exactly what components of the construction cost would service tax be applicable.

Disallowance of expenditure on account of non-compliance with TDS provisions
The existing provisions of section 40(a)(ia) of Income-tax Act provide for the disallowance of expenditure like interest,  commission, brokerage, professional fees, etc. if tax on such expenditure was not deducted, or after deduction was not paid during the previous year. It is proposed that no disallowance will be made if after deduction of tax during the previous year, the same has been paid on or before the due date of filing of return of income Note that this amendment is proposed to take effect retrospectively from 1st April, 2010.

Tax Audit limits increased
Under the existing provisions of section 44AB, every person carrying on business is required to get his accounts audited if the total sales, turnover or gross receipts in business exceed Rs. 40 lakh. Similarly, a person carrying on a profession is required to get his accounts audited if the gross receipts in profession exceed Rs. 10 lakh. These limits have been increased to Rs. 60 lakh and Rs. 15 lakh respectively.

Change in gift tax provisions
Under the existing provisions of section 56(2)(vii), any sum of money or any property in kind which is received without consideration or for inadequate consideration (in excess of Rs. 50,000) is taxable in the hands of the recipient. Of course, receipts from relatives or on the occasion of marriage or under a will are outside the scope of this provision. Nonetheless this law is only applicable to an individual or an HUF.
Therefore,  transfer of shares of a company to a firm or a company, instead of an individual or an HUF, without consideration or at an inadequate consideration escapes the tax net completely. In order to prevent the practice of transferring unlisted shares at prices much below their fair market value, it is proposed to amend section 56 to also include within its ambit transactions undertaken in shares of a company either for inadequate consideration or without consideration where the recipient is a firm or a company
Also, in several cases of immovable property transactions, there is a time gap between the booking of a property and the receipt of such property on registration, which results in a taxable differential. It is, therefore, proposed that Sec. 56 will only apply if the immovable property is received without any consideration and to remove the stipulation regarding transactions involving cases of inadequate consideration in respect of immovable property. 

To Sum
As you can see, for the average investor, Budget 2010 was largely a non-event. Even the relaxations in personal income taxes pale when seen in light of what is proposed next year onwards in terms of the Direct Tax Code (DTC). For example, under the DTC, an income up to as much as Rs. 10 lakh will be taxed only at 10%, income between Rs.  10 lakh and Rs. 25 lakh will be taxed at 20% and the 30% rate would only be applicable to incomes above Rs. 30 lakh. 

Speaking of which, it was expected that Budget 2010 may create some basic groundwork for the introduction of the DTC. Its been a while since the DTC has been put in the public domain and various stakeholders have already indicated their feedback to the government. However, there is no word on any developments on this front. There have been representations that the government should re-look at proposed provisions in the DTC such as taxing NRIs at a flat rate without offering the basic exemption limit, taxing all capital gains without any exception, scrapping of Sec. 54EC bonds, canceling the interest deduction on home loans, applying EET on existing investments etc. However, Budget 2010 chose to remain silent. It is hoped that there is some intimation in this regard from the government during the year. Watch this space for any developments.

The writer is Director, Wonderland Consultants. He may be contacted at sandeep.shanbhag@gmail.com

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