The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that India is in the midst of a significant economic slowdown and has asked for urgent steps to reverse the downturn while continuing with credible fiscal consolidation.
The growth rate is plummeting in India, it was 8% a short while ago and now it is below 5% in the most recent quarter, which is depressing and worrying.
With this background, the budget becomes all the more important for the Indian economy and the general public which would pave the way for future development in the economy. Let us see some of the budget changes that the government may consider implementing.
In the Union Budget 2019, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pushed across an additional deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh on the interest paid for home loan taken for residential house property during the period between April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, with stamp valuation of the property not exceeding Rs 45 lakh. It is "difficult" to purchase a house in a Tier 1 city at such "relatively low threshold" and thereby benefit has accrued only in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
Budget 2020 may look at extending this benefit to loans taken till March 2021 and the new threshold shall be placed at Rs 65 lakh or more for metro cities. This will give a further push to unsold inventory with the real estate sector.
In the current environment, the sole agenda of the Centre should be growth, even if it comes at the cost of fiscal deficit. Income tax cuts for corporates were targeted at infusing higher private investments in the country, which may take time to shape up.
On the contrary income tax cuts for individual taxpayers shall drive an increase in disposable incomes and discretionary spend.
This would also propel small businesses to expand further generating employment at the grass-root level. Income tax cuts for individuals and access to funds at a lower cost will provide a level playing field to these businesses that reflect the true spirit of Indian entrepreneurship.
Implementation of the new income tax slab rates suggested by the task force constituted on new Direct Tax legislation would put more money in the hands of the people. Tax on MSME firms working as partnerships is suggested to be brought down to 25%. Reforms in areas like land and labour need to be hastened.
The government must set up a dedicated fund of Rs 25,000 crore or more with no collateral being asked from the MSMEs on the lines of fund for stalled housing projects. This would address the liquidity crunch faced by the MSMEs in a big way.
The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority has recently allowed NPS schemes to invest in corporate bonds/securities which have a minimum of 'A' rating or equivalent.
National trade bodies have suggested that NPS schemes should be allowed to invest in corporate bonds/securities which have a rating of BBB," and would further allow the access of funds to corporate India. Corporates may see the acceptance of this norm by the Government of India.
Commodities Transaction Tax should be allowed as a non- refundable tax paid upfront or as a rebate instead of an expense, this will help in increasing the volumes and liquidity on Indian exchanges. The government may see this demand on the principle of equity and justice.
Entities engaged in real estate business are bleeding doubly, first, the flat buyers are not paying the monthly installments and then such businesses are also required to pay income tax on the notional income. All such real estate entities should be exempted from the burden of tax on the notional income and taxability shall be shifted to at the time of the receipt of money.
The presumptive tax turnover limit should be increased to Rs. 5 crore for businesses and to Rs 1 crore for professionals. This will help conserve the resources of a taxpayer and promote ease of doing business.
The government policy with reference to direct taxes in the medium term is to phase out tax incentives, deductions, and exemptions while simultaneously rationalising the rate of taxes.
The central government should focus on making tax policies around environment-friendly businesses like sustainable construction materials, organic products, waste recycling, wind power generation, solar power generation and sanitation management etc.
Providing additional benefits to home buyers would also help the Centre achieve its ambitious target of housing for all by 2022.
The central government may also look at further incentivising digital payments and restricting the use of cash for business payments to help unearth the domestic black money menace.
(The author is Senior Partner, AMRG & Associates.)