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Budget 2016: The middle class has reasons to show discontent

By S Kannan     March 1, 2016

For decades, the EPF, better known as the Employees' Provident Fund, has been the middle class's jackpot - especially, post retirement.

In one stroke, on Monday, the NDA government in its annual Budget threatened to rock people who have been contributing handsomely to the EPF.

If the Budget proposal is to be accepted, from the next fiscal - 2016-17 - contributions to the EPF become taxable. The proposal says that 40 per cent of the EPF contribution from April 1, 2016, will not be taxable and the rest will be taxed.


The point is, at a time when the middle class has been treated like a punching bag by the NDA government, taxing the provident fund is unfair. Over the decades, for those not keen on dabbling with the highs and lows of the stock market, saving up in the provident funds was seen as the ultimate retirement benefit.

Some voices from the government sought to assuage the feelings of the middle class on Monday when they said taxation on EPF withdrawal would not be in retrospect.

Yet, there are some who feel the government's move to tax the provident fund withdrawal is a wrong signal.

To be sure, barring mild tinkering at the lowest income tax slab levels, not much has been touched. People were expecting more largesse from the Union government vis-à-vis the existing tax structure.

At a time when this Budget is being seen as pro-rural and growth-oriented, the middle class is undoubtedly unhappy.

The government will actually be making those retiring in future poorer if PF money is going to be taxed.

Or, is this a case where the Modi sarkar, which introduced the National Pension Scheme last year, wants to push more people towards it, away from the EPF?

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