This Budget’s emphasis on agriculture, education and health are in line with the objectives of the 11th five-year plan of increasing investments in social infrastructure.
The first positive has been favourable macro-economic conditions—an 8.7% GDP growth, buoyant tax collections, strong capital flows and robust forex reserves.
Increase in threshold limits for income tax is positive. Increase in deduction of health insurance premium paid for parents will encourage more people to take medical insurance. Last year, the Budget introduced reverse mortgages (RM) to ensure the security of senior citizens. There was, however, ambiguity on the tax treatment. Now, an RM will not be regarded as a transfer of a capital asset and therefore not attract capital gains tax. Secondly, the loan amount will be exempt from income tax for the borrower.
The proposed amendments to the dividend distribution tax (DDT) will enable companies to allocate capital to their businesses more efficiently. Earlier, when a subsidiary company paid dividend to the parent company it would have to pay DDT, and when the parent company in turn paid out dividend, DDT was again applicable. This double taxation has been rectified.
The government wants to attract long-term stable capital and not short-term speculative investments. Thus, the market’s negativity on the increase in short-term capital gains tax is unwarranted—in any case, after a year listed investments do not attract capital gains tax. The removal of TDS on corporate bonds should create a vibrant secondary market, enhancing liquidity in the market. TDS on corporate bonds was not applicable uniformly and this made trading between different classes of investors difficult. Rationalizing stamp duties on securities across all states is imperative. The debt waiver for agricultural loans puts more pressure on the fiscal, but it is an opportunity for banks to clean up their balance sheets, thereby increasing their valuations. Overall the FM has delivered a fair and balanced Budget.