The Finance Ministry Friday said that it will look into the applicability of 20 per cent tax proposed in the 2019-20 Budget on the current share buybacks by listed companies. Finance Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, speaking at a CII event, said the proposed tax on listed companies is aimed at discouraging share buybacks and encouraging investments.
Asked if the government would consider grandfathering those share buybacks which are already underway from the proposed levy, Garg said: “I am not in a position to say whether that (grandfathering) can work or not, but will discuss with revenue department”. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her 2019-20 Budget speech proposed to provide that listed companies shall also be liable to pay additional tax at 20 per cent in case of share buyback, as is the case currently for unlisted companies.
The move was aimed to discourage the practice of avoiding Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT) through buybacks by listed companies. Garg said buy back is mainly undertaken by those companies which have cash, but see no investment opportunities. “Our preference would be – they invest so that there is no need to do buyback. In this economy, how the buy back is being done in digital economy space, there also enormous opportunity (for investment) exist … “Our objective was to close the arbitrage … the intent is to encourage investment,” he said.
Share buybacks offer a route for companies to return some wealth to their shareholders, while potentially boosting their stock prices. In a share buyback, a company will absorb or retire the repurchased shares, and rename them as treasury stock. Buying back stock is also a route to make a business look more attractive to investors. By reducing the number of outstanding shares, a company’s earnings per share ratio is automatically increased. Dividend Distribution Tax is paid by companies who distribute their profits to their shareholders in the form of dividends.