Eager to win over the middle class following Delhi poll debacle, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to present a common man-friendly Union Budget on Saturday by either raising tax slabs or hiking investment limit in savings instruments.
Besides giving sops to individual tax payers, he is also expected to unveil initiatives to boost investments by corporates and promote manufacturing as part of the ‘Make in India’ campaign that aims to make the country a global manufacturing hub and create jobs.
Jaitley, who in his maiden Budget in July 2014 had outlined his approach to providing relief to individual tax payers, is likely to continue this in the BJP government’s first full-year Budget.
Last year, he had raised the personal Income Tax exemption limit by Rs 50,000 to Rs 2.50 lakh and also raised by same amount the exemption from payment of I-T on savings to Rs 1.50 lakh.
However, this time around Jaitley, according to experts, may choose only one of them as he looks at additional revenue to boost public spending and push economy to high-growth path.
He may also look to raise tax-exempted investment limit in health insurance as well as exempt savings in pension schemes at all three stages — entry, accrual and withdrawal. Another option before the Finance Minister is to expand the scope of Leave Travel Allowance (LTA) and allow people to claim tax benefit every year.
With the government focusing on core sector, Jaitley may come out with tax saving infrastructure bonds and greater tax relief for payment of interest and principal on housing loan.
Last year, Jaitley had raised the tax exemption limit on repayment of housing loans to Rs 2 lakh from Rs 1.5 lakh.
The Finance Minister, who did not make any changes in the rate of surcharge on corporates or individuals last year, may retain them at the existing level. A surcharge of 10 per cent is levied on individuals on income of over Rs 1 crore and for corporates with a profit of over Rs 10 crore.
On the corporate side, Jaitley is expected to postpone the implementation of the controversial General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) by at least two years as it might adversely impact the investment climate which the government is seeking to improve
Pressure is building on Jaitley to announce tax concessions for the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to bring back investors who have been surrendering permissions obtained by them to set up SEZs.
On the indirect tax side, the Finance Minister will lay the ground for implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is expected to come into force from April 2016.
Towards this he may gradually raise the Service Tax rate from the current 12 percent as the GST would have only one rate of indirect tax.
As regards the inverted duty structure the Budget may address the concerns of the industry, especially in sectors such as auto, electronics and pharma.
Inverted duty structure refers to taxation of inputs at higher rates than finished products that results in build-up of credits and cascading costs.
Industry has been demanding that government should remove the anomalies with regard to taxation of raw material and other inputs.