Union Budget 2021: The case for a higher standard deduction – Times of India


NEW DELHI: With work at home changing into the brand new regular, it’s going to be troublesome for the finance minister to separate wage from enterprise earnings. Raising the standard deduction for salaried staff could assist stage the sector.
Two years in the past, in July 2019, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman introduced her maiden funds — and the primary Budget of the second time period of the NDA authorities. In that Budget, she hiked the standard deduction for salaried staff to Rs 50,000 from Rs 40,000.
Union Budget 2021-22: Complete protection
The standard deduction is an quantity that’s deducted from a person’s salaried taxable earnings, thus lowering the taxable earnings. Clearly, if the federal government needs to place extra money within the arms of the taxpayer (as it might have to so as to increase demand that has been choked by Covid-related lockdowns), a substantial improve within the standard deduction is sensible.
Except that the finance minister, within the Budget introduced in February 2020, had eradicated the standard deduction for taxpayers who opted to enter a new tax regime the place decrease tax slabs had been provided to those that forgo the standard deduction and a host of different exemptions. These tax slabs are 5 to 10 share factors decrease than the older slabs — on the decrease finish of the earnings scale. At the higher finish (earnings of Rs 15 lakh plus), the tax charge stays the identical.
Tax experts have mentioned the brand new scheme at size, and see it as the federal government’s first, exploratory transfer into a no-exemption regime. Is this truthful to salaried staff?
In an article written in June 2019 by EY, it was made clear that earnings-tax guidelines appear skewed in opposition to salaried staff. While businesspeople and consultants can declare exemptions in opposition to every kind of bills each month, salaried staff have far fewer choices. Tax is deducted at supply by the employer, considerably lowering take-residence pay.

EY additionally provided a hypothetical case of a salaried worker and a guide. Both make the identical gross earnings of Rs 30 lakh, one as wage and one as charges. Post tax, nonetheless, the story is vastly totally different. The salaried worker pays Rs 6.73 lakh in taxes. The guide, in the meantime, pays Rs 2.18 lakh. The salaried worker takes residence Rs 4.55 lakh lower than the guide.
The finance ministry disagreed with this studying. In a written response, the ministry mentioned: “The tax paid on taxable salary income and on gross amount of professional receipts cannot be compared as the taxable income in case of professionals is computed after allowing all the expenses incurred for carrying-out the profession. These expenses include rent for office space, salaries & wages of employees, electricity expenses for the office, printing & stationery etc.
However, in respect of a salaried individual, there is no requirement to maintain any office and the office expenses are borne by the employer. The only major expenses required to be incurred by a salaried individual for earning salary income is the expense incurred for commuting to the office. For this purpose and other miscellaneous petty expenses which a salaried individual might have to incur, a standard deduction is allowed to the salaried taxpayer which is currently Rs. 50,000.”
The objective of the EY piece was to not query the bills legitimately allowed to professionals. Rather, it was to spotlight the truth that salaried staff had only a few choices to assert equally official bills. Now greater than ever, persons are working from residence and are utilizing computer systems and telephones for official work. But they aren’t allowed to assert even a half of what they spend on shopping for such tools as deduction from earnings. Some nations, comparable to Denmark and South Korea, permit such deductions to wage earners, and that is one thing the federal government might critically think about now that ‘work from home’ is not only accepted however vital.

The few deductions which might be allowed to the salaried are unrealistically decrease than the precise value of the providers. For occasion, the boundaries for youngsters’s training allowance (Rs 100 per thirty days per baby, as much as two youngsters) and hostel allowance (Rs 300 per thirty days per baby, as much as two youngsters) had been final revised nearly 20 years in the past.
The authorities’s declare that standard deduction of Rs 50,000 will take care of incidental bills rings considerably hole. EY mentioned the re-launched standard deduction subsumed the tax-exempt transport allowance — an annual determine of Rs 19,200 and the medical reimbursement that may very well be claimed as much as Rs 15,000. In quick, the top profit was simply an annual incremental internet discount in taxable earnings of Rs 5,800.
Now evaluate this to what a skilled can declare. For starters, there’s the presumptive tax scheme. Under this, professionals can file their return declaring 50% of their gross returns (topic to gross receipts not exceeding Rs 50 lakh). After the tax-saving investments below Section 80 are accounted for, the skilled must pay tax solely on the stability earnings. Of course, receipts in extra of Rs 50 lakh will should be audited and the precise bills as per the audited accounts are allowed as a deduction.
While presumptive tax has actually helped smaller and medium-sized professionals, it has resulted in stark disparity between salaried staff and consultants with the identical earnings.
The finance ministry disagrees, and says that within the case of presumptive tax, “it is presumed that 50% of his gross receipts are expended towards various expenses required to be incurred for carrying out his profession. However, this is not a standard deduction and it has also been provided in the Act that if the professional incurs expenses less than 50% of the gross receipts, then he has to declare the higher income.”
The earlier finance minister, the late Arun Jaitley, noticed this in a totally different mild. In his 2018-19 funds speech, Jaitley highlighted the truth that a mean wage earner pays 3 times extra earnings tax (Rs 76,306) than a non-salaried taxpayer does (Rs 25,753) — each figures from the funds speech.
It shall be fascinating to see how the finance ministry offers with the problems of presumptive tax and standard deduction in a yr when nearly your complete nation labored out of residence. The pandemic-induced lockdown and subsequent restrictions on motion meant that salaried staff and professionals alike spent on workplace infrastructure at residence. This new regular is unlikely to fade in a hurry. Will the upcoming Budget take this under consideration when framing the brand new tax guidelines?
(A model of this text was printed in July 2019)

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