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Direct taxpayer base growth slows in Modi government’s first 2 years

NEW DELHI: Tax concessions and moderate increments have slowed down the expansion of direct taxpayer base in the first two years of the Narendra Modi government, a trend that it expects to reverse post-demonetisation.

Data released by the tax department showed that the number of individual taxpayers filing returns has grown, but at a slower pace for four years in a row starting 2012-13, when there was an increase of 54 lakh. But ever since then, the numbers will not bring cheer as far as widening the base is concerned. In fact, in the first two years of the current regime, the number of individual taxpayers rose from 5.4 crore in 2013-14, the year before Modi swept to power, to 5.93 crore in 2015-16 — an increase of 53 lakh. But with at least 91 lakh taxpayers added-post demonetisation, the government is hoping to significantly widen the base. Tax experts say part of the reason for the moderation in growth in the direct taxpayer base are the concessions offered by the Modi government. For instance, in his first Budget after the elections, finance minister Arun Jaitley had increased personal income tax exemption limit by Rs 50,000, which was seen as a reward for the middle class. This move is seen to have pushed several individuals out of the net. In 2015, he followed it up with more deductions for health insurance and pension. The reduction in individual taxpayers could be a consequence of increase in basic ceiling of taxable income for individual taxpayers in 2014-15. The data of 2015-16 is prior to demonetisation — it not only has carry-over effect of reduction in basic taxable income but also marginal increase in income of salaried class, said Samir Kanabar, partner at consulting firm Ernst & Young. In 2015-16, the falling trend of direct taxes as a percentage of the Centre’s overall tax collection also continued as the share of service tax in overall kitty went up. In fact, for the first time since 2006-07, direct taxes accounted for less than half the tax collections, data released by the government on Wednesday showed. But on the positive side, it was a year in which the trend of falling ratio of direct taxes to GDP was reversed.

Trai mulls ways for companies closing operations to return unused balance

NEW DELHI: Telecom regulator Trai will “quickly” evolve a mechanism for telcos that are closing down services or operations to return the unused balance of pre-paid customers.

The mechanisms being weighed include such telcos crediting the unused amount to the Aadhaar-linked bank accounts of their consumers in a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) type model, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman R S Sharma told.

“We are very clear in our mind that we will find ways to ensure that customers get back their money. We will evolve a procedure and mechanism for doing that, and specific instructions will be issued in this regard quickly,” he said.

Sharma asserted that such a mechanism was important as the unused amount is not “small” and “involves hundreds of crores”.

“It is certainly a consumer issue,” he said adding that Trai will make all efforts to ensure that consumers in such situations do not get “shortchanged” with regard to getting back their unused sum or being given an adequate notice period by the operator.”We will find a way to ensure that customers… if there is a balance remaining with operators… that such balance comes back to the pre-paid consumers. Maybe we will try out something like DBT…It certainly can be done leveraging Aadhaar-linked bank accounts,” he said.

The regulator is considering calling specific telecom operators who are switching-off operations for a detailed discussion on how they propose to return the unused balance to customers.

Sharma said that while the modalities for such money transfer will be worked out, the underlying principle is that where ever possible “customers must get their money back in case they are not getting the service”.

Bitcoin trading in India? Why it’s still a big no-no

NEW DELHI: Though it has hit surprising levels this year and few also predicted that the momentum may continue further, trading in bitcoins (which is currently illegal in the country) or any cryptocurrencies is a potential threat.

Despite the fact that Bitcoin started the year at $1,000 per unit in January and by mid-December it rose to $20,000, the government has clarified that it currently does not recognise the cryptocurrency as legal tender.

Maintaining its stance, the government on Tuesday further said that it does not maintain any data related to virtual currencies. Minister of State for Finance Pon Radhakrishnan said in the Lok Sabha that Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has also cautioned from time to time to users, holders and traders of virtual currencies about the potential financial, operational, legal and security related risks.

On Monday, the Income Tax department (I-T) said that it will issue notices to around 4-5 lakh high net-worth individuals who were trading in the virtual currency on the exchanges.

Investing in bitcoins:

People with high net-worth who more likely to take risks with their money are generally the ones to invest in the online currency through exchanges expecting quick multiplication. Last week, the tax department had conducted surveys at nine such exchanges to check instances of tax evasion. The taxman figured out that of the estimated 20 lakh entities registered on these exchanges, about 4 to 5 lakh were “operational” and indulging in transactions and investments.

Should you really invest in it:

Although, there are some individuals who are really keen to invest in bitcoins but these type of virtual currencies pose a lot of threat and security issues. Commenting on whether to invest or not in these digital currencies such as bitcoins, A K Sridhar, chief investment officer (CIO), IndiaFirst Life Insurance said, “People see it (bitcoin) as a bubble but a bubble must have soap water underneath.”

MOU inked for petrochemical park in Kochi

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 21 () An MoU for setting up a Rs 1,800 crore petrochemical park at Kochi, with the aim of making the port city a hub in the petrochemical production chain, was inked by the Kerala government and fertiliser major FACT, owned by the Centre.

It will come up in 481 acres of land owned by the Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore, the state government said.

The park was aimed at making Kochi a hub in petrochemical production chain on par with Jurong in Singapore and industrial complexes in South Korea, it said.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in the presence of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan by FACT Chairman and Managing Director S K Lohani and Additional Chief Secretary (Industries and Power) Paul Antony on behalf of the Kerala government here yesterday.

The project, which will be developed by Kerala Infrastructure Developemnt Corporation (KINFRA), will foster an environment for industries that use the by-product of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), the Chief Minister’s Office said in a Facebook post.

The Kerala government will facilitate funds for the project through KIIFB (Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board).

About 150 acres of land will be acquired at the rate of Rs one crore an acre and 331.79 acres will be acquired at the rate of around Rs 2.4 crore per acre, totalling Rs 977 crore, the post said. UD SS


In-principle approval for 19 greenfield airports given: Raju

New Delhi, Dec 21 () The government has given “in- principle” approval for 19 greenfield airports, of which some would be developed through Public Private Partnership (PPP), the Lok Sabha was informed.

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the country’s civil aviation sector was growing leaps and bounds but the safety of air passengers will never be compromised.

Emphasising that air travel is growing leaps and bounds, Raju said during Question Hour that the number of aircraft in the country was around 548 compared to about 395 in 2014.

Since the government came to power in 2014, around 50 aircraft is being added every year, he said.

Responding to a query whether shortage of skill was affecting the aviation sector, Raju said there is a problem and mismatch of skill.

The minister asserted that safety of passengers was “never compromised and will never be compromised”, adding that safety and security was paramount for the government.

When a member expressed concern over air safety against the backdrop of incidents involving Pratt & Whitney engine- powered aircraft, Raju said, “passenger safety is never put at risk”.

Out of the 19 greenfield airports for which “in- principle” approval has been granted, some are to be developed through the PPP model.

“Mopa in Goa, Navi Mumbai and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, Bhogapuram and Dagadarthi in Andhra Pradesh, Hasan in Karnataka, Kannur in Kerala and Dholera in Gujarat” would be through PPP model by the respective state governments with a total investment of around Rs 27,000 crore, Raju said.

The responsibility of implementing these projects rests with the state governments concerned, he noted.

To a query, the minister said, “we like more airports to come,” and the government would work with the states in this regard.

Indigo commences ATR operations, launches first Hyderabad-Mangalore flight

HYDERABAD: Low cost carrier IndiGo commenced its regional jets ATR operations, with the maiden flight taking off from here to Mangalore.

The first flight of the ATR plane took off from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here this morning to Mangalore, the airline said in a release.

By December 2019, IndiGo, with its fleet of brand new 21 ATRs, would have connected about 15 tier-II and tier-III new cities on its network, thereby giving a big boost to regional connectivity, the airline’s president and whole-time director, Aditya Ghosh, said in a statement.

“With more ATRs joining our fleet in the months to come, we are much closer to realising the dream of the common man,” he said.

“The IndiGo network will expand not only to provide connectivity between these smaller cities, but our strong network of domestic and international markets will also open up immense connectivity to and fro for these smaller markets,” Ghosh said.

Elaborating on the expansion plan, IndiGo’s chief commercial officer Sanjay Kumar said on January 7 and 9, the airline will be commencing its second and third ATR operations, adding Tirupati and Rajahmundry on the network respectively.

He also announced four new domestic flights from Hyderabad, which include an additional Hyderabad-Lucknow- Hyderabad flight, a new Hyderabad-Ranchi-Hyderabad flight, an additional Hyderabad-Jaipur flight and a new Hyderabad-Jammu via Jaipur flight.

IndiGo has placed a term sheet for 50 ATR aircraft. The airline is expecting to add seven ATR flights by March 2018 and 21 ATR planes to its fleet by December 2018, the release said.

In October, the airline had announced that it would be strengthening its network in the regional markets with over 90 flights to and fro Tirupati, Rajahmundry, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Mangalore, Madurai, Vijayawada and Nagpur, the release added.

Vodafone 4G network covers 600 towns in Punjab

Chandigarh, Dec 21 () Cellular operator Vodafone India said its 4G network now covers over 600 towns in Punjab and the expansion is in sync with the growing data-related requirements in the state.

“Vodafone SuperNetTM 4G now covers 600 plus towns in Punjab, with over 550 towns being added over the past three months alone,” said Arvind Nevatia, Business Head – Punjab, HP and J&K, Vodafone India in a release issued here.

Some of the new towns under Vodafone 4G network include Kapurthala, Malerkotla, Jalalabad, Nabha, Sirhind Fatehgarh Sahib, Muktsar, Jagraon, Fazilka, Sunam and Tarn Taran, he said.

He further said the company had invested about Rs 450 crore on expanding and strengthening the network in the state over the past one year.

“We have seen a rapid rise in data usage in urban and rural Punjab. Our expansion overdrive is in sync with the growing data-related requirements of Punjab. As part of our expansion overdrive, we have rolled out 4,600 plus sites (3G/4G combined) in the last few months, to offer an unmatched quality of network,” he said.

“To highlight the strong data promise of our network for the residents of Punjab, we have conducted a data speed testing campaign in the state with the speed tests confirming the superiority of the network quality and superfast speeds of Vodafone SuperNetTM 4G,” he claimed.

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