Technology

Greater Boost to e-governance, new scheme for software export industry

NEW DELHI: The Government today announced its proposal to enhance the allocation for e-governance from Rs. 395 crore in the year 2006-07 to Rs. 719 crore in 2007-2008.

Presenting the Budget proposals in the Lok Sabha today, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the Government had launched an ambitious programme for e-governance with the objective of improving efficiency, convenience, accessibility and transparency in Government functions and take Government services to the common citizen. He said the Central Government supports e-governance action plan at State levels and therefore it was proposed to increase the allocation for such support from Rs. 300 crore in 2006-07 to Rs. 500 crore in 2007-08.

The Minister also proposed to provide Rs. 33 crore for a new scheme of manpower development for the software export industry.

Mr Chidambaram noted that e-filing of corporate returns introduced this financial year had been a resounding success and until January 31, 2007, 301,736 returns were electronically filed by corporates. The Ministry’s analysis showed that ‘the effective rate of tax paid by all corporates, thanks to numerous tax concessions and exemptions - several of them well-intended - was only 19.2 per cent’. He therefore decided to extend Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) to income in respect of which deduction is claimed under sections 10A and 10B of the Income Tax Act.

MAT had been introduced in 1996-97 for companies with book profits, and its purpose was to bring about horizontal equity in taxation.

Extending service tax to renting of immovable property for use in commerce or business, the Minister excluded residential properties and land for entertainment.

While bidding goodbye to 200,000 assesses through service tax proposals, the Minister said he proposed to bring new assesses into the fold by extending service tax to fields like the Development and supply of content for use in telecom and advertising purposes; asset management services provided by individuals; and

Design services.

The Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers had agreed to work with the Central Government to prepare a roadmap for introducing a national level Goods and Services Tax (GST) with effect from April 1, 2010.

Keeping in mind the special needs of several sectors and the interest of the consumers, the Minister mooted a proposal to raise the exemption limit for small scale industry (SSI) from Rs.1 crore to Rs. 1.5 crore. The exemption limit for small service providers was being increased from Rs. 400,000 to Rs. 800,000. While noting that this will mean 200,000 assesses out of a total of 400,000 assesses will go out of the service tax net, he said he was happy to give away the revenue loss of Rs. 800 crore in the interest of the small service provider and the consumer.

The Minister said the telecommunications industry had repeatedly requested that the multifarious taxes, charges and fees applicable to the industry should be unified and a single levy on revenue should be collected. He had accepted this proposal and proposed to request the Department of Telecommunications to constitute a committee to study the present structure of levies and make suitable recommendations to Government.

He proposed to exempt from service tax all services provided by technology business incubators to encourage innovation. Similarly, their incubatees whose annual business turnover does not exceed Rs. 50 lakhs will be exempt from service tax for the first three years.

As a measure to encourage small and medium enterprises to invest and grow, the Minister said the surcharge on income tax will be removed on all firms and companies with a taxable income of Rs. One crore or less, benefiting about 1,200,000 firms and companies.

Since VAT (Value Added Tax) had proved to be an unqualified success and VAT revenues of the implementing States increased by 13.8 per cent in 2005-06 and by 24.3 per cent in the first nine months of 2006-07, the next logical step was to phase out Central Sales Tax (CST) and the Central Government had reached an agreement with State Governments in this regard. Consequently, the CST rate will be reduced from 4 per cent to 3 per cent with effect from April 1, 2007 and Rs. 5,495 crore had been provided for compensation for losses, if any, on account of VAT and also on account of CST.

Noting that venture capital funds were a useful source of risk capital for start-up ventures in the knowledge-intensive sectors, the Minister said it was necessary to limit the tax benefit to investments made in truly deserving sectors. He therefore announced that among other industries, information technology relating to hardware and software development would be given pass-through status to venture capital funds only in respect of investments in venture capital undertakings.

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