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Budget 2019 to see relief on corporate tax front? Experts divided on what FM Arun Jaitley should do

Industry bodies are seeking a cut in corporate tax.

Budget 2019: As the presentation of the Union Budget draws near, there is clamour from corporates for a tax cut, but tax experts are finding it difficult to concur on the issue. Three experts contacted by Financial Express Online agreed that there’s a case for cut in corporate tax to align the rate with that in advanced economies which is around 25-26% in OECD and USA. One expert said doing this will lead to a fall in tax collection leading to further fiscal slippage.

“Corporate tax rates are too high in India. World over, corporate tax rates are lower than the personal income tax rate so that funds can flow into the corporate sector,” Ved Jain, past president of Institute of Chartered Accounts told Financial Express Online. V Lakshmi Kumaran, managing partner of corporate law firm Lakshmikumaran and Sridharan and Aseem Chawla, managing partner of ASC Legals concur with the view that the government should cut the corporate tax rate in Union Budget 2019.

However, Saurabh Jain of SMC Global Securities differs with the view citing threat of fiscal slippage as it may be difficult for finance minister to contain the fiscal deficit to 3.3% of GDP as promised by him in the last budget. “This is not the right time. There is a risk of fiscal slippage as the government’s GST collections are not as per the expectations and corporate profitability is also low, ” Saurabh Jain, AVP Research (Retail Equities) of investment consultancy firm SMC Global Securities told Financial Express Online.

As finance minister Arun Jaitley gears up to present this government’s last budget on February 1, he will be under increasing pressure to fulfill the Modi government’s promise to bring corporate tax down to 25 per cent for all the companies. “Reducing the corporate tax rate even by 5%, coupled with the certainty in the manner of enforcement, will result in quantum jump in GDP and will act as a catalyst to millions of people in India to have better living standards,” V Lakshmi Kumaran, managing partner of Lakshmikumaran and Sridharan told Financial Express Online.

At present, there is a 30% rate for corporation tax on the companies having a turn over of more than Rs. 250 crore. Then there is a 20% dividend distribution tax (DDT) and 18% minimum alternate tax (MAT) and 10% DDT on individual shareholders. “It’s important to cut corporate tax as there is a cascading of taxes,” added Mr. Ved Jain.

In last year’s budget, Arun Jaitley lowered the corporate tax to 25% for the companies with a turn over of Rs. 250 crore or less in a partial fulfillment of the promise made by the Modi government in its first budget. “The government should apply this positive discrimination of reducing the corporate tax rate to all the companies across board,” Aseem Chawla, managing partner of ASC legals, a Delhi based tax consultancy firm told Financial Express Online.

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is also under pressure to keep India’s corporate tax structure globally competitive while maintaining the fiscal prudence. He has a difficult choice, if he maintains the rate then tax differential may force big companies to move towards the jurisdictions with lower tax rates. US President Donald Trump had last year announced the biggest corporate tax rate cut in American history, from 35 to 21%. It immediately put pressure on countries like India and China as the move was aimed at retaining and attracting the global capital to the country.

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Source: Financial Express