The Finance Minister started her Direct tax proposals remembering the tax-friendly measures introduced by her prior to few months of the pandemic. She also mentioned that the number of returns filed has seen a dramatic increase to 6.48 cr from 3.31 cr in 2014. So, in a span of 6 years, the number of tax returns filed has almost doubled. Thanks to the demonetization and implementation of GST, amongst other things.
Coming to the current budget 2021, the following are some of the amendments impacting individuals.
Interest on PF contributions
Currently, the withdrawal of accumulated balance (i.e., both principal and interest) in the provident fund is generally exempt provided the contribution has been made for a continuous period of 5 years. It is proposed to tax the interest income accrued during the year which is attributable to the contributions made by the taxpayer (i.e., employee contribution) in excess of Rs.2,50,000. This may have huge impact on the voluntary contributions made by the employees. Such employees may need to rethink contributions beyond Rs.2,50,000 and could explore alternative investments that may provide for higher returns than the provident fund.
Impact on proceeds from ULIPs having huge premiums
Hitherto, there was no tax on the proceeds of ULIP if the premium payable did not exceed 10% of the actual sum assured. Budget 2021 proposes to tax the proceeds from ULIPs issued on or after 01 Feb 2021 if the premium payable exceeds Rs.2,50,000 even though such premium is less than 10% of the actual sum assured. However, this is not applicable if the sum is received on the death of a person. Since the intention of exemption currently provided is to benefit small and genuine cases of life insurance, it is proposed to tax high net worth individuals who were investing in ULIPs with an objective of investment and not from risk coverage.
Indian residents having income from foreign retirement funds
Individuals who are residents and ordinarily residents’ in India and having income from foreign retirement funds were facing huge hardship due to the mismatch in the year of taxability of income from such funds. Since these individuals are taxable on their global income, the income on such retirement funds was taxable in India in the year of accrual. However, in most cases, the withdrawals may be taxed in the other country on a receipt basis. So, there is an absolute mismatch in recognising the income for taxation purposes and many times such individuals may end up paying taxes in both countries. To remove the genuine hardship, the Budget 2021 proposes to prescribe the manner in which such income should be taxed from the specified retirement funds. Considering the difficulties faced by such taxpayers, this amendment is a welcome move and expected to avoid the double taxation impact on such individuals. Hope the widely held accounts like US IRAs and 401Ks will get included in the list of specified funds.
Advance tax on dividend income
An individual needs to pay advance tax in four installments. For this purpose, the income needs to be estimated and if there is excess or shortfall, the same can be adjusted in the subsequent installments. Interest will be applicable for a shortfall of taxes if any. However, for certain incomes like capital gains etc. taxpayers can pay the advance tax in the installment coming up after the capital gain transaction without paying any interest. Since the income of such nature cannot be estimated, this relaxation has been provided. Now dividends also are coming under this list i.e., advance tax on dividend income can be paid only subsequent to the receipt of such dividend. This will ease the taxpayer from the burden of estimating the dividend income for advance tax purposes.
Sale of the residential unit by builders or developers
Currently, if the sale price of a residential property is lower than the stamp duty value or circle rate, the stamp duty value or circle rate is considered as sale price and accordingly, the profits are determined for tax purposes in the hands of such builder/developer. Parallelly, the same amount is taxed in the hands of the buyer of such property under the head ‘income from other sources. However, this is not applicable in cases where the difference between the actual sale price and stamp duty value does not exceed 10% i.e., for the stamp duty the value can be up to 110% of the sale price of the property. The budget 2021 proposes to increase this 10% to 20% for both the seller and buyer if the following conditions are met.
- The sale of the residential unit takes place between 12th Nov 2020 to 30th June 2021
- The sale is that of a new residential house
- The sale consideration does not exceed rupees two crores
This is introduced to boost the demand in the real estate sector and to enable the developers to liquidate their inventory.
Extension of time limit for sanction of loans in case of affordable housing
As per the existing provisions, an additional deduction of Rs.1,50,000 is available towards interest on a loan taken for a residential house property if the loan has been sanctioned between 01 April 2019 to 31 Mar 2021. It is proposed to extend this period till 31 Mar 2022. The additional conditions like the stamp duty value of the property cannot exceed rupees 45 lakhs and the taxpayer does not own any residential house property on the date of sanction of loan, need to be satisfied.
Exemption from tax return filing for a certain category of senior citizens
It is proposed to exempt senior citizens who are of the age of 75 years or more from tax return filing provided the below conditions are met:
- Such senior citizens have an only pension and interest income
- Such income should be from the specified banks.
- Interest income should be from the same bank in which they are receiving pension
- Such banks have deducted adequate taxes on the above income
Though the intent of the above proposal is laudable, one needs to see to what extent this will ease the compliance burden of senior citizens since the conditions may rarely be met by them.
The budget 2021 also proposes the following procedural changes:
- The time limit for filing belated/revised return has been reduced by 3 months. For example, the belated or revised return for the FY 2021-22 can be filed upto 31 Dec 2022
- The limit of turnover for tax audit purposes is proposed to increase to 10 crores where 95% of receipts and payments are done through digital mode
- Going forward pre-filled returns cover capital gains, dividends, etc.
- Dispute resolution committee to be set up to reduce litigations for small and medium taxpayers.
This budget appears to be simple and has minimal impact on individual taxation. There were series of amendments made to income tax laws during/post-pandemic and this could be one of the reasons for such a simple budget.