In FY13, the savings rate in the economy has fallen to 30% of the GDP from the peak of 37% in FY08. Therefore, it was expected that the popular tax deduction under Section 80C of the I-T Act for various tax-saving investments, such as Employees Provident Fund, Public Provident Fund, life insurance premium, principle repayment of housing loan, etc., would be increased to R3 lakh.
Any increase in this limit does result in revenue loss for the government and, in absence of any alternative measure to compensate for this revenue loss, there were constraints for the government to make any radical changes. Therefore, this limit has been increased from R1 lakh to R1.5 lakh, which would provide a tax relief of about R15,000 to an individual taxpayer. Though the tax savings for an individual household per se may not be that much, from an overall perspective, the total quantum of funds available under different schemes would be quite substantial.
Interestingly, with a view to encourage small savings schemes, it has been proposed to increase the limit for investment in PPF from R1 lakh to R1.5 lakh per annum. This will benefit households, especially self-employed individuals who are not covered under employers Provident Fund scheme. As lakhs of households save funds under PPF, which has a long gestation period of 15 years, these funds can be utilised for long-term projects.
There has been a long-pending demand to increase the deduction for interest paid on housing loan, as the cost of housing and housing loans has increased substantially over the last few years. In this years Budget, to provide a boost to the housing sector, this deduction for interest on housing loan for a self-occupied house has been increased from from R1.5 lakh per annum to R2 lakh per annum. This would help households in their decision to buy/construct house and, in turn, provide a much-needed boost to the housing and banking sectors as well as other industries like construction, cement and iron and steel.
It has been proposed that the long-term capital gains deduction for investment in residential house property will now be available only where such investment is made in one residential house property situated in India. This has been done to address the controversy arising due to some recent court rulings.
The revenue constraints have forced the government to continue with the surcharge and education cess as per last years tax provisions, including in case of individuals earning income of more than R1 crore, which, in the present state of the economy, appears reasonable. Hopefully, once the economic activity increases and revenue collections go up, the government may consider removing the surcharge and cess.
The writer is partner, KPMG