Though discussions on shifting the financial year to January-December instead of April-March are still on within the government, the change will not happen next year, according to Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar. In order to start the next financial year from January 2018, the government needs to present the Union Budget some time in November, which does not seem to be possible as the process is time-consuming and has to be kicked-off well ahead, the minister said. “These are points of discussion in the government. For now, consider March as the end of this fiscal year,” Gangwar told IANS in an interview.
After Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the current parliament session said the government is considering changing the financial year to January-December, speculation has been rife about the switchover in 2018. However, there was no official confirmation either way on this and the government continued its stance of “discussions are on”.
Experts were of the opinion that the mammoth change was not likely to happen so soon after implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from July 1, as the shift involves a lot of operational issues, including cutting short the year to three quarters, changes in government’s balance sheet, new assessment year for income taxpayers and bringing forward of the Union Budget.
The Narendra Modi government had already advanced the Union Budget by a month to February 1 from 2017 in order to complete all the legislative processes and approvals for annual spending before the start of the financial year from April 1. So far, Madhya Pradesh is the only state to adopt a January-December financial year. On May 2, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that the state would be shifting to the new fiscal from 2018 and complete all its budgetary proceedings by the close of 2017.
Chouhan has also issued instructions to clearly chalk out the state government programmes to be completed in quarterly, half-yearly and annual fashion. The April-March financial year was adopted in India in 1867 to align it with that of the British government. Prior to that, the Indian financial year used to begin from May 1 and end on April 30. Meanwhile, with the GST Council meeting scheduled for August 5, Gangwar said the various issues that have cropped up since the roll-out of the new indirect tax regime would be discussed.
The minister said that the tax rates on textiles, hybrid cars and gold could also be discussed. “We have decided that on August 5 whatever changes are necessary will be brought about. The problems being faced by people… Council will discuss on those lines and whether any change is needed,” he said. “Since the time GST has been implemented, people are putting forth representations on tax rates from all states. We will consider (them),” he added.
The minister, however, noted that the July 1 roll-out has been smoother than expected and the government was ready for more challenges. “The glitches and problems experienced have been less than expected,” Gangwar said.