Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented a please-all Budget giving something for everyone. The NDA government’s first budget (of its second term) unleashed structural reforms to kickstart growth, raised full income tax exemption limit to Rs 5 lakh, opened up sectors such as aviation, insurance, media and real estate to FDI, allowed private sector participation in agriculture and rolled out a bevy of incentives for FIIs, and FPIs.
Budget 2020 didn’t really encompass big-ticket projects but had several champions neatly segmented into rural and urban proposals to ensure uniformity. Pension benefits for 3 crore retail traders and shopkeepers with an annual turnover of Rs 1.5 crore, building of 1.95 crore houses by 2022, Rs 80,000 crore for road projects, setting up a social stock exchange to help entities working with social objectives to raise capital via equity, debt or units like mutual funds, the Budget had it all.
While the middle-class got tax breaks, particularly on housing loans which as a sum of parts stretched to Rs 7 lakh over 15 years, the axe, however, fell on the super-rich. In view of the rising income levels, Sithamaraman proposed to tax the rich, enhancing surcharge for those with an income between Rs 2 crore and 5 crore and Rs 5 crore and above, with their effective tax rates going up by 3 and 7 per cent respectively. As part of simplifying filing of tax returns, mandatory use of PAN card is eliminated, besides making Aadhaar inter-changeable with PAN. Soon faceless e-assessments with zero human interface too will chip in.
In all, Sitharaman presented an expansive budget of Rs 27.8 lakh crore for FY20, up from the previous year’s Rs 24 lakh crore. Gross tax revenue will likely grow at a modest 9.5 per cent, with Direct taxes growing at 11.3 per cent at Rs 13,35,000 crore, while indirect taxes will rake in Rs 11,22,015 crore, with full benefits of GST likely to start coming in only from next fiscal.
On the other hand, non-tax revenue is pegged at Rs 3.13 lakh crore, including disinvestment proceeds of Rs 1.05 lakh crore.
Gross fiscal deficit for FY20 is set at 3.3 per cent of GDP, a notch lower than FY19’s 3.4 per cent. The government is certain about strategic sale of PSUs and the quantum of government stake will be reduced on a case to case basis and not just a flat 51 per cent. Besides, norms will also be modified on computing 51 per cent government ownership, which will now be inclusive of stakes held by government-controlled institutions like LIC. Sitharaman’s speech, stretching a little over two hours, also had a mention of strategic disinvestment of Air India, though it was short of specifics.
While affordable housing got its due, archaic rental laws will be done and dusted, and replaced by a model tenancy law, which will be circulated to states.
The Railways will need a massive investment of Rs 50 lakh crore by 2030. So, besides the annual capital expenditure of Rs 1.5-1.6 lakh crore every year, the FM proposed to use PPP model in various aspects including completing track laying and freight movement.
Stating that India’s sovereign external debt to GDP was among the lowest globally at less than 5 per cent, the FM said the government will consider raising gross sovereign borrowing from the external market for the first time. The announcement moved the bond market, with 10-year bond yields falling by 13 bps (0.13%) instantly.
Ending months of uncertainty, Sitharaman clarified that angel tax issue for startups will be a thing of past. Further sweetening the deal, she said startups need not justify fair value of shares and the valuation of shares will be beyond income tax scrutiny even for II AIFs.
Meanwhile, bank recapitalisation is pegged at Rs 70,000 crore for FY20, while the ailing NBFC sector too got a helping hand with the government proposing to provide a one-time six month partial credit to PSBs for the first loss of up to 10 per cent besides giving partial credit guarantee to banks for buying high-rated pooled assets of NBFCs. A staggering Rs 3.75 lakh crore is stuck in tax litigations and hence the FM proposed to set up a legacy dispute resolution scheme to speed up processing.