Govt showers tax sops, reaches out to farmers in pre-poll budget

New Delhi: Setting aside all conventions with an eye on the coming elections, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday showered tax sops for the middle class and salaried tax payers including zero tax liability for those with income up to Rs 5 lakh and announced an annual income support of Rs 6,000 for small farmers and contributory pension for labourers in the demonetization-hit unorganised sector.
Taking the place of an ailing Arun Jaitley, in his 100-minute speech, Goyal also announced raising the Standard Deduction for the salaried class and pensioners from Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 and proposed exemption from tax on notional rent on second self-occupied home. This would help families maintaining homes at two locations due to their jobs.
In a big relief for the middle income group, he increased the rebate under Section 87A of the Income Tax Act from Rs 2,500 to Rs 12,500 — the equivalent of 5 per cent tax on Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh slab — and also raised the eligibility criterion for claiming the rebate to Rs 5 lakh from Rs 3.5 lakh earlier. This effectively reduces the tax liability of those with net taxable income up to Rs 5 lakh to nil.
However, tax liability for those with net income above Rs 5 lakh would still start from Rs 2.5 lakh as earlier. The Interim Budget neither changed the existing tax rates or the slabs.
The tax giveaways involve a revenue sacrifice of Rs 23,100 crore a year to benefit more than three crore salary earners and pensioners — Rs 18,400 crore on account of Rs 12,500 tax rebate and other changes and Rs 4,700 crore on account of raising the standard deduction.
In the wake of the BJP’s defeat in the Hindi heartland states in December on perceived stress in agriculture and informal sectors, the budget came out with a direct income support of Rs 6,000 per annum for small farmers with land-holding size up to two hectares which would be transferred directly into their bank accounts.
The scheme would be funded completely by the central government and would directly benefit 12 crore farmer families, he said to the cheers of the ruling benches.
Acknowledging reduced returns for farmers due to falling food prices in the international market and declining inflation, Goyal said the scheme would be implemented from December 1 last year for which Rs 20,000 crore has been allocated in the revised estimates for the current fiscal and Rs 75,000 crore in the Interim Budget for the whole of next fiscal.
For the unorganised sector, Goyal announced a contributory pension scheme providing for Rs 3,000 per month on attaining 60 years benefiting 10 crore workers in the unorganised sector.
Those who enter the scheme at 18 years will have to pay a monthly premium of Rs 55 while those who enter at 29 years will have to pay Rs 100 per month till they reach 60. The government will contribute a matching share in the pension account of workers.
This scheme, he said, will be implemented from the current year and a sum of Rs 500 crore has been allocated and more will be given if needed.
In a big relief to pensioners and senior citizens, he also raised the threshold for Tax Deduction at Source (TDS) on interest received on bank deposits from Rs 10,000 to Rs 40,000, and TDS on rent from Rs 180,000 to Rs 240,000.
“Once you account deductions under Section 80(C), middle class tax payers with gross income up to Rs 6.5 lakh will have no need to pay income tax,” he said amidst prolonged thumping of desks by the ruling NDA members who kept shouting “Modi, Modi, Modi”. The prime minister was himself seen thumping the desks every time Goyal made fresh announcements.
Taken along with Standard Deduction and other sops like interest paid on home loans, education loans, contribution to National Pension Scheme, medical insurance premium and medical expenses on senior citizens, the effective exemption would go up further.
He said while the changes in the tax structure would be made in the regular budget, people needed a certainty in their minds in the beginning of the year about what taxes they would have to pay and went on to announce the tax sops in the Part B of his speech.
The budget also stepped up defence allocation which he said will be crossing Rs 3 lakh crore for the first time in 2019-20.
Part of the funding for the agriculture and unorganised sector schemes may come from the Rs 20,000 hike in the RBI and PSU dividends from Rs 54,000 crore in 2018-19.
Turning to macro finance in the budget, Goyal revised the fiscal deficit target for 2019-20 at 3.4 per cent of the GDP, up by 0.1 per cent targeted this year. — IANS