Keen to provide certainty in taxation and to cut down on disputes, finance minister P Chidambaram is likely to introduce the concept of tax accounting standards (TAS) in the Income Tax Act through the Finance Bill, 2013, so that calculation of income tax other than the minimum alternate tax is independent of a company’s book profits.
Persons privy to the government’s thinking said modifications to Section 145 of the Income Tax Act to allow calculation of an entity’s taxable income based on TAS without having to maintain two sets of accounts for stakeholders and the tax authorities is expected soon. There could also be a mention of this in Chidambaram’s forthcoming Budget speech.
TAS would have a major impact on tax outgo of companies, especially those in the construction and engineering sectors and banks, in terms of curtailment of freedom in accounting flexibilities. The taxable income of BHEL, L&T and Hindustan Construction, for instance, are set to go up across the board under TAS as it disallows the existing conservative approach allowed under Accounting Standard 3 of recognising revenue from contracts only after their completion if there is an uncertainty in revenue realisation . Under the percentage completion method of recognising revenue proposed in TAS, these companies have to show income as the projects progresses, allowing early taxation of income. BHEL recently reported a 17.5% drop in its net profit for October-December to R1,182 crore on the back of a slowdown in the power sector that prevented it from booking revenue from several projects despite incurring expenditure.
The introduction of TAS will also necessitate some changes in the tax return forms. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has been working on TAS in order to reduce the accounting alternatives allowed to taxpayers by the accounting rule maker ICAI in some of the 28 standards. The proposed TAS will be applicable for all income tax payers, not just corporate assessees. From the year TAS is implemented, taxpayers have to compulsorily follow it while calculating their income tax liability, which could be quite different from what is reported in the profit and loss