In an interview with The Hindu, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian made it clear that one of the government’s primary and key focus areas is to change the income tax slabs to reduce the tax burden on the salaried and middle class. Additionally, in November of 2017, the government had formed a task-force to draft a new (and simpler) direct tax law to replace the existing Income Tax Act, which has been in force since 1961.
The government will be devising and acting on effective measures to ensure that the proposed income tax slab changes don’t affect its revenue too much, as there is already the possibility of overshooting the fiscal deficit target for 2018-19.
No change in tax slabs for income tax have been made for salaried class. However, a standard deduction of Rs 40,000 under transport and medical reimbursement has been allowed to them, owing to the fact that they have been paying more tax than individual business owners. (The facility has been extended to pensioners). With the introduction of this standard deduction, the taxpayer will no longer be able to avail exemption on account of transport allowance and medical expenditure to the tune of Rs. 19,200 and Rs. 15,000, respectively, allowed earlier.
The finance minister offered several benefits for the senior citizens this year. The key benefit is the one that raises the exemption of interest income on bank deposits from Rs 10000 to Rs 50,000 for senior citizens. For the purpose, a new section 80TTB has been introduced.
Deduction under health insurance premiums has been raised to Rs 50,000. In case of senior citizens with critical illnesses, the deduction will be Rs 1 lakh. Exemption for medical treatment of senior citizens has also been raised to Rs 1 lakh. Earlier the limit was Rs. 60,000 and Rs. 80,000 for senior citizens and very senior citizens, respectively.
For senior citizens, Fixed Deposits (FD) and post office interest will also be exempt till Rs 50,000. 80D benefit has been enhanced to Rs 50,000 and 80DDB benefit has been enhanced to Rs. 1,00,000.
The education and health cess has been raised from the current rate of 3% to the new rate of 4%. This is the only additional levy on the small taxpayers this time.
A 25% corporate tax rate has been extended to companies with revenue up to Rs 250 crore (instead of 30% earlier).
100% tax deduction will be given to farm cooperatives. Furthermore, 100% tax deduction for the first five years will be allowed to companies registered as farmer producer companies with a turnover of Rs 100 Crore and above.
Long-term capital gains (LTCG) exceeding Rs 1 lakh will be taxed at 10% without indexation benefit with certain caveats. (Indexation benefits helps investors in long-term debt funds to save taxes).
Equity Oriented Mutual Funds will now face a dividend distribution tax of 10% to bring it at parity with the new LTCG of 10%. (Short-term capital gains remains at 15%).