Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Budget 2012-13

This year's budget has four points which have caused anxiety.

1. Raising Service tax to 12% and creating a negative list of services. This act of the finance minister has put a plethora of services in the ambit of service tax. Indirect taxation in itself is a very demotivating tax for entrepreneurs. "Value Added Tax" or excise duty are taxes for adding value to the raw material so that the ultimate user of the goods pays for the labour spent on these raw materials. Service tax is also in the same legion, the ultimate consumer of service has to pay tax on the services consumed. The logic being, our government is not able to tax individuals and firms directly, effectively and therefore they would like to recover taxes from them through this roundabout means. The logic may be correct but it is flawed when you calculate the yield.

Imagine a large industrialist who has more than 50% stake in his public limited company, he obviously falls in the 30% + Surcharge category tax slab. If his company has lets assume a payout of Rs. 1 billion as dividend then more than 50% of that money would come straight to the promoter's pocket and that too tax free!

So our friend promoter now file income tax returns claiming tax free income of more than Rs. 500 million and may be a salary of around 20 million rupees. if he pays 33% tax on the 20 million rupees his tax outgo would be 6.66 million rupees and that would be an effective tax rate of 1.2%. what is the amount of money he would be spending on services to pay a service tax is another question. if he spends around 5% of his residual income on services he would be paying a service tax of approximately Rs. 2.5 million. Compare this with the tax he would be paying if dividends were taxed. If dividends were taxed then the tax that this person would be paying would be 30% of Rs. 520 million amounting to Rs. 156 million.

The excuse put forth for not taxing dividend at the hands of the tax payer is that it is very difficult to implement. All we need is to implement it with the big fish and let the small fry go away. A cursory look at the share holding pattern of large companies in India shows that the most of the companies have promoters stakes above 30%. retail investors account for around 5% of the investors in these companies. therefore it is easier to locate the shareholders and demand dividend tax from them in fact with compulsory demat accounts it is still easier for tax collection. Dividend can also be taxed at source like any other TDS and the companies can be asked to deposit the TDS on dividends. That way it would be the most easiest tax to collect. In times of inclusive growth it is blasphemy to let go large industrialists with small effective tax rates.

So instead of taxing people on the services they avail, it would have made great sense to tax dividends and the government could have mopped up more tax from this exercise.

2. Amending tax laws to levy capital gains tax on transactions outside India, when the assets are in India with retrospective effect from 1962 is a RETROGRADE STEP. Any amendment in tax laws should be for the forthcoming year so that the businesses and the people at large take this as a cue and engage in activities knowing fully well about what part of their earnings need to be share with the government. If the government is going to pull out historical deals and ask for a share in the profits earned in earlier periods, this means that the government is going to wait until you make profits and then lay its claim on its share after the game is over. That's not GAME Mr. Finance Minister! Any tax law which proposes to tax income in future is welcome but not past income. Past is Past Pranabda, please make the rules of the game before the game starts, Indian government is known for changing rules of the game midway, but changing the rules after the game is over is obnoxious and not palatable.

3. Fiscal deficit seen at 5.1%. Should we say this is realistic or should we assume that our FM will be off target by 2% like all other FMs in the past. If he is off target by 2% then it would mean a Fiscal deficit of 7% and that would be catastrophic. If he is realistic,  then what happened to the target of 3% fiscal deficit announced in the previous years? Why can't the government cut costs? stop spending on freebies and concentrate on good governance and prudent financial administration? Are coalition pressures stopping the finance minister from taking bold measures like restructuring the tax rates to increase effective taxation rates of wealthy people and reduce the taxation rates of the the lower and middle income groups? World over there is a growing consensus amongst the rich that they are ready to share their wealth but that is not to be seen in India, why? This approach of floundering on the policy front and squandering the fruits of growth in the last decade will slowly and surely take the country to a 1991 like crisis.

Car Sales for the year 2011-12. Source http://www.team-bhp.com/

4. Increase in excise duty on large cars. Whom are you kidding Mr. FM? Even if you consider all cars of C1, C2, D1, D2 and Premium Category as large cars, the number would be @ 720,000 cars per year, an increase of Rs. 50,000 per car amounts to Rs. 36,000,000,000 that is Rs. 3600 cr. I think that's too much ado about nothing. One more tokenism.

Let's talk about the Rajiv Gandhi Equity Savings Scheme. As a stock market practitioner I still have no clue as to how am I going to tell aam aadmi that he should open a demat account and invest Rs. 50,000 in equities locked in for three years and then he would get an income tax benefit. Seems a far fetched idea! Anyway thats our FM for you. 

As far as the markets are concerned, FII liquidity is still chasing Indian equities, since they do not have any other assets elsewhere worth investing. Around 10 bn dollars have already reached the shores of India in this calendar year and these dollars are giving me the jitters that they may fly back the way they came in, SWIFTLY...

Hoping that the FIIs do not find a better place for investment, our markets will surely go up slowly. technically speaking, the 50DMA has crossed over the 200DMA after nearly a year and a half and has given a good bullish signal. I only pray God that these things will keep the market moving northwards despite the wrong economics.

Have a nice Day