16th- 31st December 2016
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India, Singapore revise tax treaty

The government signed a pact with its Singapore counterpart on 30th Dec, 2016, amending their decade-old tax treaty, gaining taxation rights over capital gains. This is the third double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) amended so far this financial year with a zero or low tax jurisdiction. The other two were with Mauritius and Cyprus. According to tax consultants, Mauritius would be the most attractive source of investments into India for debt funds and Singapore for equity investments. Mirroring the revised IndiaMauritius DTAA, the government has some grandfathering provisions (having the old rule continuing to apply for some existing situations, with the new one for all future cases) and a two-year transition benefit to investments from Singapore. The revised pact will take effect from April 1, 2017. For two years from that date, capital gains tax will be imposed at 50 per cent of the prevailing domestic rate. The short-term rate is 15 per cent at present. The full rate will apply from April 1, 2019.
“2016 has been historic, with all three tax treaties amended… The treaties were misused to round-trip domestic black money and bring it back to India through these routes. There has been a significant battle by India against black money. It is a happy coincidence that by amending these treaties, there has been a burial to the black money route that existed,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the revised DTAA. Mauritius and Singapore are the top two sources for foreign direct investment to India, about half of the total direct flow. Total FDI from Mauritius over the past decade and a half is USD 95.9 billion. That from Singapore is USD 45.8 bn The concessional rate of 50 per cent would be subject to fulfilment of conditions of Limitation of Benefit (LOB), an expenditure of at least Rs. 50 lakh in Singapore in the previous financial year. It is Rs.27 lakh in the case of Mauritius.

Benami property transactions on I-T radar
With the validity date ended on Friday for normal exchange of old currency notes, the income tax (I-T) department is working on ‘property index cards’ featuring high value realty transactions in the past three years. They’ve also outlined stringent action against those reportedly having deposited unaccounted old currency in someone else’s bank account. Officials are believed to have directed property dealers and registration authorities to give lists of top property deals in descending order of valuation over three years.
“Tackling benami (property officially in someone else’s name, to avoid tax) properties and transactions is one of our key items. On the basis of information on property transactions and bank deposits, we have decided to probe such cases under the newly enforced Benami Transactions Act,” said an I-T official. The Act allows violators to be sentenced to a term of up to seven years in jail. “Benami amounts in a bank account will be confiscated and the violator also be liable to a fine which extends up to 25 per cent of the fair market value of a benami property,” the official added.
Two More Advance Pricing Agreements signed by the CBDT
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has closed the year 2016 by entering into two more unilateral Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) today. The APA Scheme was introduced in the Income-tax Act in 2012 and the “Rollback” provisions were introduced in 2014. The scheme endeavours to provide certainty to taxpayers in the domain of transfer pricing by specifying the methods of pricing and setting the prices of international transactions in advance. Since its inception, the APA scheme has evinced a lot of interest from taxpayers and that has resulted in more than 700 applications (both unilateral and bilateral) being filed in just four years. The two APAs signed today pertain to the Information Technology and Automobile sectors of the economy. The international transactions covered in these agreements include Software Development Services, IT enabled Services, Manufacturing and Business Support Services. With this, the total number of APAs entered into by the CBDT has reached 117. This includes 7 bilateral APAs and 110 Unilateral APAs. In the current financial year, a total of 53 APAs (4 bilateral APAs and 49 unilateral APAs) have already been entered into. The CBDT expects more APAs to be concluded and signed in the near future.
Threshold Limit on ESI increases to Rs. 21,000
As per notification issued by Ministry of Labour and Employment dt. 22nd December, 2016, in exercise of the powers conferred by section 95 of the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, the Central Government, after consultation with the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, hereby makes the following rules further to amend the Employees’ State Insurance (Central) Rules, 1950, namely:- 1. (1) These rules may be called the Employees’ State Insurance (Central) Third Amendment Rules, 2016. (2) They shall come into force from 1st day of January, 2017. 2. In the Employees’ State Insurance (Central) Rules, 1950, in rule 50, for the words “fifteen thousand rupees” occurring at both the places, the words ‘twenty one thousand rupees” shall be substituted.

More online services may face ‘Google tax’

The government is likely to expand the scope of the equalisation levy, the so-called “Google tax”, to bring more digital transactions into the tax net in the upcoming budget to curb tax avoidance by multinational firms. Online sales of goods and services; downloading of software, songs, movies and books; and online consumption of news are among the services that the government may consider for the levy.
“Internationally the trend is to bring more digital transactions into the tax net as multinational companies end up avoiding taxes. It was just a beginning last year when we introduced a six per cent tax on online advertisement,” said an official. The government has imposed a six per cent levy for business-to-business transactions on income accruing to foreign e-commerce companies from India for specified services like online advertisement. It has been imposed on non-resident companies without a permanent establishment for incomes exceeding Rs.1 lakh a year.
The government has earned Rs.100 crore in revenue on account of the equalisation levy so far. Companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and Google earn significant revenues from India from local advertisers. A committee set up by the Central Board of Direct Taxes to examine taxation of e-commerce had recommended an equalisation levy of 6-8 per cent on 13 broad services based on the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting guidelines.  

Ordinance likely to amend Payment of Wages Act
A mid currency crunch, the government is mulling over bringing in an ordinance to amend the payment of wages Act for allowing business and industrial establishments to pay salaries through cheques or by electronic modes.
“The government may bring an ordinance to amend Payment of Wage Act, 1936, to nudge employers of certain industries to make payment through electronic modes and cheques,” a source said.
The source further said, “The bill for the purpose was tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 15, 2016. It can be pushed for passage in the Budget session next year. Thus, instead of waiting for two more months, the government can issue the ordinance and later it will be passed in Parliament." Standard practice is, government brings ordinance to amend laws for immediate implementation of new rules. An ordinance is valid for six months only. Government is required to get it passed in Parliament within that period.
The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016, seeks to amend Section 6 of the principal Act to enable employers pay wages to their employees through cheques or by crediting it to their bank accounts electronically. The Bill was introduced by Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya amid din over demonetisation issue.
Tax experts hope Goods and Services Tax will pep up GDP growth by 2% 
Tax experts on Sunday said there will be a uniform andone-nation-one-tax in the form of Goods and Services Tax(GST) proposed from April 1. The experts guided CAs on GST during a regional tax conference held here jointly by the Nashik and Jalgaon branches of TheInstitute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
Bimal Jain, chairman, Indirect Tax Committee of PHD Chamber of Commerce, said, "The present indirect taxes in India have driven business to structure and model their supply chain and systems owning to multiplicity of taxes and costs involved therein. GST will be a big game changing reform for Indian economy by developing a common Indian market and reducing the cascading effect of taxes on the cost of goods and services."
He added, "GST has broad-based implications, affecting the entire organisation regardless of the size and nature of the business. There will be uniform tax structure across the country based on the one-tax-one-nation formula. Currently, the total taxes on supply of goods in the country are around 27%. But the standard tax rate of GST will be 18%."
GST could trip 'Make in India' for smartphones
India's success in making firms such as Samsung, Xiaomi, and Micromax to locally produce phones could become a cropper, once the Goods and Services Tax (GST) comes into effect, as the new taxation regime could neutralise the cost benefits to make these phones in India.
Since the last two years, India has been able to attract 40 global smartphone makers in the country, after it tweaked norms that made cheaper to make phones in India and sell it to the billion strong mobile subscribers. At the same time, government has been able to scale investments in electronic manufacturing over ten-fold to Rs 1.24 lakh crore from Rs 11,000 crore two years ago.
"There is a near 10% tax arbitrage for manufacturing mobile phones in India in the current tax regime. However, once GST is implemented, it will be different. We hope that the Government will try and protect the arbitrage in some manner," said Prateek Jain, Partner and National Leader - Indirect Tax at PwC India.
A IIMB Counterpoint report released in November 2016 estimates that 180 million mobile phones to be manufactured in India in 2016, which is nearly a 125% growth over the year-ago period. This has also helped in creating nearly 50000 jobs.
Neeraj Bhagat & Company is a team of distinguished chartered accountant, corporate financial advisors and tax consultants in India. Our firm of chartered accountants represents a coalition of specialized skills that is geared to offer sound financial solutions and advices. The organization is a congregation of professionally qualified and experienced persons who are committed to add value and optimize the benefits accruing to clients.

Neeraj Bhagat & Co.
New Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai 

Neeraj Bhagat & Co., S-13, St. Soldier Tower, Vikas Puri, New Delhi, 110018 India

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