The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019. The Act shall be deemed to have come into force on the 20th day of September 2019
Economic developments after the enactment of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 2019 (Finance Act) along with the reduction of the rate of corporate income tax by many countries world over necessitated the provision of additional fiscal stimulus to attract investment, generate employment and boost the economy. As these could have been achieved through an amendment to the Income-tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) or to the Finance Act and the Parliament was not in session, it was done through the promulgation of The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 (the Ordinance) in September 2019. Salient features of the amendments made by the Ordinance are provided in the following paras.
In order to promote growth and investment, a new provision was inserted in the IT Act to provide that with effect from the current financial year 2019-20, an existing domestic company may opt to pay tax at 22% plus surcharge at 10% and cess at 4%, if it does not claim any incentive/deduction. The effective tax rate for these companies comes to 25.17% for these companies. They would also not be subjected to Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT).
In order to attract fresh investment in manufacturing and provide boost to ‘Make-in India’ initiative of the Government, another provision was inserted to the IT Act, to provide that a domestic manufacturing company set up on or after 1st October, 2019 and which commences manufacturing by 31st March, 2023, may opt to pay tax at 15% plus surcharge at 10% and cess at 4% if it does not claim any incentive/deduction. The effective rate of tax comes to 17.16% for these companies. They would also not be subjected to MAT.
A company which does not opt for the concessional tax regime and avails the tax exemption/incentive shall continue to pay tax at the pre-amended rate. However, these companies can opt for the concessional tax regime after the expiry of their tax holiday/exemption period. After the exercise of the option, they shall be liable to pay tax at the rate of 22%. Further, in order to provide relief to companies which continue to avail exemptions/incentive, the rate of MAT was reduced from existing 18.5% to 15%.
In order to provide relief to listed companies, the buy-back tax on shares of listed companies introduced through the Finance Act will not apply to buy-backs in respect of which public announcement was made before 5th July, 2019.
In order to stabilise the flow of funds into the capital market, it was provided that the enhanced surcharge introduced through the Finance Act on capital gains arising on account of transfer of listed equity share or certain units which are liable to securities transaction tax will not apply. Further, it was also provided that the enhanced surcharge will not apply to capital gains income of FPIs arising out of the transfer of any security including derivatives, having concessional tax regime.
Highlights of the Ordinance and the Bill
- Currently, domestic companies with an annual turnover of up to Rs 400 crore pay income tax at the rate of 25%. For other domestic companies, the tax rate is 30%. The Bill provides domestic companies with an option to pay tax at the rate of 22%, provided they do not claim certain deductions under the Income Tax Act.
- The Bill provides new domestic manufacturing companies with an option to pay income tax at the rate of 15%, provided they do not claim certain deductions. These new domestic manufacturing companies must be set up and registered after September 30, 2019, and start manufacturing before April 1, 2023.
- A company can choose to opt for the new tax rates in the financial year 2019-20 (i.e. the assessment year 2020-21) or in any other financial year in the future. Once a company exercises this option, the chosen provision will apply for all subsequent years.
- Provisions regarding payment of Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) will not apply to companies opting for the new tax rates. MAT is the minimum amount of tax required to be paid by a company, in case its normal tax liability after claiming deductions falls below a certain limit. The Bill adds that the provisions regarding MAT credit will also not apply to companies opting for the new rates.
- The Ordinance reduces the MAT rate (applicable for companies not opting for the new tax rates) from 18.5% to 15% with effect from the financial year 2019-20. The Bill amends this provision by making it effective from the financial year 2020-21.
Key Issues and Analysis
- In 2017-18, 29% of the 8.4 lakh companies paid tax at an effective rate higher than 25%. The Bill allows these companies a lower statutory tax rate option of 25.17%. These companies contributed 69% of the total income tax paid by all companies in 2017-18.
- In the case of the manufacturing sector, the effective tax rate after deductions was 28% in 2017-18. This is much higher than the 17.16% statutory tax rate option provided under the Bill for new domestic manufacturing companies.
- The Ministry of Finance has estimated the revenue impact of new tax rates and other measures under the Ordinance (includes exemptions to capital gains of certain investors from increased surcharge rates) at Rs 1.45 lakh crore. This could increase the fiscal deficit for the year 2019-20 from 3.3% of GDP to 4% of GDP.