|Speech of Shri
Finance Minister, Government of India
27th February, 1999
Direct Taxes - Part 2
103. I propose to amend the law so that tax concession will be available to a loanee on interest payment to a co-operative bank on actual basis rather than accrual basis. This proposal will induce the loanees to make timely repayment of their interest liability in order to avail of the tax benefit, and correspondingly, the financial condition of the co-operative banks can be expected to improve.
104. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I now turn to the proposals relating to the Infrastructure and Industry sectors.
105. The Indian entertainment industry, which includes films, music and television software is growing by leaps and bounds. I believe that with our creativity and our talent, India has the potential to become a global media superpower. We have done remarkably well in the field of computer software development and exports, and the same can be achieved in the development and export entertainment industry products, specially films, TV, software and music. With a view to facilitating India becoming a super power in this sector, I am including a number of measures in the budget. My aim is to give similar facilities and tax benefits to this sector as are available to the export of goods and merchandise under section 80HHC.
106. Let me assure you that it would be our endeavour to support the entertainment industry "Dil Se", and I am sure that no longer would the industry have to ask the government "Hum Apke Hain Kaun"?
107. Mr. Speaker, Sir, we are all conscious of the fact that the Information Technology sector is going to be the sector of the future. The immediate crisis, which is looming over this sector, is connected with the Y2K Problem, which will hit us at the close of the current calendar year. I get the impression that the corporate sector is not adequately seized of the dangers which lie ahead on account of this problem. In these circumstances, to assist the business sector to overcome the Y2K Problem, I propose that all expenditure incurred in making their systems Y2K compliant be allowed as revenue expenditure in the next financial year. I urge the business sector to avail of this concession and make every effort to remedy the defect in their software systems, so that their valuable databases do not spin into chaos.
108. Under the current law, a weighted deduction of 125% of the expenditure made on in-house R&D is available to corporate houses up to 31.3.2000. Representations have been received that this period is too short for any company to plan its R&D programme. I propose to extend the concession for in-house R&D up to 31.3.2005. Further, I propose to extend a similar concession of permitting a weighted deduction of 125% of expenditure for R&D Projects entrusted to research laboratories and universities. In the globalised economy, the future is for those who are in the vanguard of development of technology. In view of this, I would urge the corporate sector to avail of this facility to the fullest extent.
109. In the last few years, the direct tax department has undertaken a concerted drive to extend the national tax base. As a method of identifying potential taxpayers, the "One by Six" scheme was extended to 35 cities in 1998-99. This Scheme has given very satisfying results. Consequent upon the launching of this scheme, the number of tax assessees has risen from 120 lakh to 140 lakh in the period of one year. It is the assessment of the department that there is considerable scope for further registration of tax assessees. In view of the favourable results of the scheme, I now propose to extend this scheme to 19 more cities in the country having a population of more than 5 lakh.
110. Since the last budget, the Income Tax department has undertaken a drive for issue of PAN Numbers to the tax-paying applicants. The response of this scheme has been overwhelming, and we have received as many as 168 lakh applications. The requisite PAN Numbers have already been issued to 75 lakh taxpayers and we are confident that the remaining applications will be disposed in the next few months.
111. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I will now like to highlight the proposals which are targeted at those sections of society which require Governments special attention. First, I propose that the deduction for medical insurance premia for senior citizens be raised from the current level of Rs.10,000 to Rs.15,000 and tax deduction for treatment of specific diseases be increased to Rs.60,000. Considering the fact that medical and hospitalisation costs have risen and life expectancy has also improved, the general insurance industry intends to increase the upper ceiling of the sum insured under the mediclaim policy from the existing level of Rs.3 lakh to Rs.5 lakh, and the upper age limit for coverage to 80 years from the existing 75 years. Second, I propose that expenditure made in respect of hostel projects for working women be eligible for deduction from taxable income under Section 35AC of the Income-Tax Act. Third, I propose that pension received by the recipients of the different gallantry award winners, and the family pension received by their heirs, be exempted from income tax.
112. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I now submit my last proposal on direct taxes. I face the difficult task of containing the revenue and fiscal deficits on the one hand, and on the other meeting the growing development expenditure. I propose to fulfil this task and also ensure equitable burden sharing. I am making a modest demand only on those sections of our society who have the capacity to pay while exempting low-income earners. With these considerations, I propose to impose an across-the-board surcharge of 10% on Corporate Tax, and also a 10% surcharge on all other categories of assessees. In respect of individuals and Hindu Undivided Families, the applicability of the surcharge is limited to those having total income of Rs.60,000 or more. In effect, this surcharge will mean an increase of a marginal 2% in the 20% slab & 3% in the 30% slab. It would leave the rate in the 10% slab unchanged. This is in the nature of a temporary surcharge. I trust that the House and our citizens will appreciate the circumstances in which I have had to make this proposal.
113. To sum up, Mr. Speaker, Sir, as a result of the various proposals made in this budget on the direct taxes, the estimated revenue in 1999-2000 would be Rs.59,235 crore, including a component of net additional resource mobilisation of Rs.3,100 crore.
114. I now have something to say on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Communications. Postal Service is highly employment intensive and salary & allowances constitute a major part of the operating expenses of the Postal Department. A revision of tariff for some postal services has, therefore, become unavoidable. However, in the interest of the common man and the role of the postal services in easy dissemination of news and information there will be no change in the tariff for Postcard, Money orders, Book packets containing printed books and Registered newspapers. However, the rate of Printed Postcard is being raised from Rs.1.50 to Rs.2.00, of Competition Postcard from Rs.3.00 to Rs.4.00, of Inland letter from Rs.1.50 to Rs.2.00, of Book pattern and sample packets from Re.1.00 to Rs.2.00 for first 50 grams or part thereof and from Rs.2.00 to Rs.3.00 for every additional 50 grams or part thereof, and Parcels from Rs.10.00 to Rs.12.00 for a weight not exceeding 500 grams or part thereof and from Rs.10.00 to Rs.15.00 for every additional 500 grams or part thereof. There are also certain other changes, which are explained in the Memorandum circulated along with the budget documents. The changes would take effect from a date to be notified after the Finance Bill is passed. The revisions proposed are estimated to yield additional revenue of about Rs.145 crore in a full year and about Rs.121 crore during 1999-2000. Even this modest increase which is necessary for sustaining postal development, will only partially meet the cost of various services.
115. As a result of the postal tariff revision, total expenditure of the Central government for the year 1999-2000 would be marginally reduced to Rs.2,83,882 crore while with my tax and other proposals, net revenue receipts and non-debt capital receipts would increase to Rs.2,03,927 crore. The revenue deficit is placed at Rs.54,147 crore, while the fiscal deficit is placed at Rs.79,955 crore. This amounts to 2.7% and 4.0% respectively on the basis of the new series of GDP announced by Central Statistical Organisation and after excluding the payment of the share of small savings collection to State Governments. Based on the old series of GDP and excluding the payment of the share of small savings collection to State Governments, the percentage works out to 3.0% and 4.4% respectively.
116. With the Budget for 1999-2000, we will have set in motion a medium-term strategy for restoring the fiscal health of our economy. This budget proposes to reduce the revenue and fiscal deficits by 0.7% and 0.5% of GDP, respectively. At this rate of reduction, the revenue deficit will be eliminated in 4 years and the fiscal deficit will have declined below 2% of GDP. The budget proposes major reform of our excise taxes. In the medium-term we will move to a single rate and a full-fledged VAT system. Our customs duty structure will be phased down to Asian levels in 5 years. During this period Indian industry will have restructured and become fully competitive in world markets. Our knowledge-based industries will generate lakhs of jobs. The gains from competition and productivity growth will drive our exports to new heights. Over the same period our physical and human infrastructure will be raised close to world class. Above all, the basic needs of all our people for food, shelter, health, education and employment will be met within a decade from now.
117. These achievements will transform India into a genuine economic super power by the year 2020. The twenty-first century belongs to us.
118. In the words of the Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee -
(Hindi lines .)
With dreams of prosperity and marching at a stormy pace, the tide of patriotism will not recede. Let the courageous come forward to join me.
119. Mr. Speaker, Sir, with these words, I commend the budget to this august House.