Saturday, August 22, 2009


The government's annual budget exercise is no different from the way we all manage our household budgets. The only difference: the former's intimidating jargon. Team ET simplifies the important budget items for its readers in a five-part series. We have, however, departed from the usual way glossaries are presented, in alphabetical order, to a flow-type format wherein terms are explained as the reader would encounter them in the budget. Read on

ON the budget day, the finance minister tables 10-12 documents. Of these, the main and most important document is the Annual Financial Statement.

Article 112 of the constitution requires the government to present to the Parliament a statement of estimated receipts and expenditure in respect of every financial year, April 1 to March 31. This statement is the annual financial statement.
The annual financial statement is usually a white 10-page document. It is divided into three parts, Consolidated Fund, Contingency Fund and Public Account. For each of these funds the government has to present a statement of receipts and expenditure.

This is the most important of all the government funds. All revenues raised by the government, money borrowed and receipts from loans given by the government flow into the consolidated fund of India. All government expenditure is made from this fund, except for exceptional items met from the Contingency Fund or the Public Account. Importantly, no money can be withdrawn from this fund without Parliament's approval.

As the name suggests, any urgent or unforeseen expenditure is met from this fund. The Rs 500-crore fund is at the disposal of the President. Any expenditure incurred from this fund requires a subsequent approval from Parliament and the amount withdrawn is returned to the fund from the consolidated fund.

This fund is to account for flows for those transactions where the government is merely acting as a banker. For instance, provident funds, small savings and so on. These funds do not belong to the government. They have to be paid back at some time to their rightful owners. Because of this nature of the fund, expenditure from it are not required to be approved by Parliament.

For each of these funds the government has to present a statement of receipts and expenditure. It is important to note that all money flowing into these funds is called receipts, the funds received, and not revenue. Revenue in budget context has a specific meaning. The Constitution requires that the budget has to distinguish between receipts and expenditure on revenue account from other expenditure. So all receipts in, say consolidated fund, are split into Revenue Budget (revenue account) and Capital Budget (capital account), which includes nonrevenue receipts and expenditure. For understanding these budgets - Revenue and Capital - it is important to understand revenue receipts, revenue expenditure, capital receipts and capital expenditure.

All receipts and expenditure that in general do not entail sale or creation of assets are included under the revenue account. On the receipts side, taxes would be the most important revenue receipt. On the expenditure side, anything that does not result in creation of assets is treated as revenue expenditure. Salaries, subsidies and interest payments are good examples of revenue expenditure.

All receipts and expenditure that liquidate or create an asset would in general be under capital account. For instance, if the government sells shares (disinvests) in public sector companies, like it did in the case of Maruti, it is in effect selling an asset. The receipts from the sale would go under capital account. On the other hand, if the government gives someone a loan from which it expects to receive interest, that expenditure would go under the capital account. In respect of all the funds the government has to prepare a Revenue Budget (detailing revenue receipts and revenue expenditure) and a capital budget (capital receipts and capital expenditure). Contingency Fund is clearly not that important. Public Account is important in that it gives a view of select savings and how they are being used, but not that relevant from a budget perspective. The consolidated fund is the key to the budget. We will take that up in the next part.

Tax on profits of companies.

Income tax paid by non-corporate assesses, individuals, for instance.

The taxation of perquisites — or fringe benefits — provided by an employer to his employees, in addition to the cash salary or wages paid, is fringe benefit tax. It was introduced in the 2005-06 budget. The government felt that many companies were disguising perquisites such as club facilities as ordinary business expenses, which escaped taxation altogether. Employers have to now pay a tax (FBT) on a percentage of the expense incurred on such perquisites.

Sale of any asset (shares, property etc) results in loss or profit. Depending on the time the asset is held, such profits and losses are categorised as long term or short term capital gain/loss. In the 2004-05 budget, the government abolished long-term capital gains tax on shares (tax on profits made on sale of shares held for more than a year) and replaced it STT. It is a kind of turnover tax where the investor has to pay a small tax on the total consideration paid/received in a share transaction.

Introduced in the 2005-06 budget, BCTT is a small tax on cash withdrawal from bank exceeding a particular amount in a single day. The basic idea is to curb the black economy and generate a record of big cash transactions.

Taxes imposed on imports. While revenue is an important consideration, customs duties may also be levied to protect the domestic industry or sector (agriculture, for one), in retaliation against measures by other countries etc.

Duties imposed on goods manufactured in the country.

It is a tax on services rendered. Telephone bill, for instance, attracts a service tax.
While on taxes, let us take a look at an important classification: direct tax and indirect tax, which finds wide mention in the budget.

Traditionally, these are taxes where the burden of tax falls on the person on whom it is levied. These are largely taxes on income or wealth. Income tax (on corporates and individuals), FBT, STT and BCTT are direct taxes.

In the case of indirect taxes the incidence of tax is usually not on the person who pays the tax. These are largely taxes on expenditure and include Customs, excise and service tax.

Indirect taxes are considered regressive, the burden on the rich and the poor is alike. That is why governments strive to raise a higher proportion of taxes through direct taxes. Moving on, we come to the next important receipt item in the revenue account, non-tax revenue.

The most important receipts under this head are interest payments (received on loans given by the government to states, railways and others) and dividends and profits received from public sector companies.

Various services provided by the government — general services such as police and defence, social and community services such as medical services, and economic services such as power and railways — also yield revenue for the government. Though Railways are a separate department, all its receipts and expenditure are routed through the consolidated fund.

The third receipt item in the revenue account is relatively small grants-in-aid and contributions. These are in the nature of pure transfers to the government without any repayment obligation.

We now look at the disbursements section of the Revenue Account of the consolidated fund. It lists all the revenue expenditures of the government. These include expense incurred on organs of state such as Parliament, judiciary and elections. A substantial amount goes into administering fiscal services such as tax collection. The biggest item is interest payment on loans taken by the government. Defence and other services such as police also get a sizeable share. Having looked at receipts and expenditure on revenue account we come to an important item, the difference between the two, the revenue deficit.

The excess of disbursements over receipts on revenue account is called revenue deficit. This is an important control indicator. All expenditure on revenue account should ideally be met from receipts on revenue account; the revenue deficit should be zero. When revenue disbursement exceeds receipts, the government would have to borrow. Such borrowing is considered regressive as it is for consumption and not for creating assets. It results in a greater proportion of revenue receipts going towards interest payment and eventually, a debt trap. The FRBM Act, which we will take up later, requires the government to reduce fiscal deficit to zero by 2008-09.

RECEIPTS in the capital account of the consolidated fund are grouped under three broad heads — public debt, recoveries of loans and advances, and miscellaneous receipts.

In normal accounting, debt is a stock, to be measured at a point of time, while borrowing and repayment during a year are flows, to be measured over a period of time. In Budget parlance, however, you'll find public debt receipts and public debt disbursals. These are respectively borrowings and repayments during the year. The difference between the two is the net accretion to the public debt.

Public debt can be split into two heads, internal debt (money borrowed within the country) and external debt (funds borrowed from non-Indian sources).

The internal debt comprises of treasury Bills, market stabilisation scheme, ways and means advance, and securities against small savings.

These are bonds (debt securities) with maturity of less than a year. These are issued to meet short-term mismatches in receipts and expenditure. Bonds of longer maturity are called dated securities.

The scheme was launched in April 2004 to strengthen Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) ability to conduct exchange rate and monetary management. The RBI mops up excess liquidity, created, for instance when the central bank buys up huge quantities of dollar inflows to prevent undesirably fast appreciation of the rupee, by selling its stock of government securities to banks. When the RBI began to run short of of government securities that had been issued to meet the government's borrowing requirement, the MSS was launched. These securities are issued not to meet the government's expenditure but to provide the RBI with a stock of securities with which to intervene in the market for managing liquidity.

One of the many roles of the RBI is to serve as banker for both the Central and State governments. In this capacity, the RBI provides temporary support to tide over mismatches in their receipts and payments in the form of ways and means advances.

The government meets a small part of its loan requirement by appropriating small savings collection by issuing securities to the fund.

These are primarily receipts from disinvesment in public sector undertakings.
The capital account receipts of the consolidated fund — public debt, recoveries of loans and advances, and miscellaneous receipts — and revenue receipts make up the total receipts of the consolidated fund.

We now take up the disbursements on capital account from the consolidated fund. The first part deals with capital expenditure incurred on the various services — general services, social services and, economic services. Some of the biggest expenditure items under these heads are defence services, investment in agricultural financial institutions and capital to railways. The second part takes up the public debt (repayments of loans) and various loans made by the government.

The consolidated fund has certain disbursements "charged" to the fund. These are obligations that have to be met in any case and, therefore, do not have to be voted by the Lok Sabha. These include interest payments and certain expenditure such as emoluments of the President, salary and allowances of speaker, deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and allowances and pensions of Supreme Court judges. Parliament and so on. This concludes the discussion on consolidated fund. We now move on to the other budget documents, which give a more detailed presentation of the consolidated fund.

This is obviously a snap shot of the budget, for an easy understanding. Nonetheless, it introduces some new concepts. While receipts are broken down into revenue and capital, unlike the consolidated fund, it shows the centre's net tax revenues. This is because a decent part of the gross tax revenue, as decided by the relevant Finance Commission, flows to the state governments.

Budget at a glance also segments expenditure into plan and non-plan expenditure, instead of splitting into revenue and capital. Each of these is then split into revenue account and capital account. Before discussing plan and non-plan expenditure it is important to discuss the concept of the central plan.

Central or annual plans are essentially the five year plans broken down into five annual instalments. Through these annual plans the government achieves the objectives of the Five-Year Plans. The funding of the central plan is split almost evenly between government support (from the budget) and internal and extra budgetary resources of public enterprises. The government's support to the central plan is called the budget support.

This is essentially the Budget support to the central plan and the central assistance to state and Union territory plans. Like all Budget heads, this is also split into revenue and capital components.

This is largely the revenue expenditure of the government. The biggest item of expenditure are interest payments, subsidies, salaries, defence and pension. The capital component of the non-plan expenditure is relatively small with the largest allocation going to defence.

It is important to note that the entire defence expenditure is non-plan expenditure. We will now take up the various deficits and the components of plan and non-plan expenditure. In the Budget at a Glance, the plan and the non-plan expenditure make up the total government expenditure. This brings us to the concept of deficit.

When the government's non-borrowed receipts (revenue receipts plus loan repayments received by the government plus miscellaneous capital receipts, primarily disinvestment proceeds) fall short of its entire expenditure, it has to borrow money from the public to meet the shortfall. The excess of total expenditure over total nonborrowed receipts is called the fiscal deficit.

The revenue expenditure includes interest payments on government's earlier borrowings. The primary deficit is the fiscal deficit less interest payments. A shrinking primary deficit would indicate progress towards fiscal health.

We had already discussed revenue deficit earlier. The Budget document also mentions the deficit as a percentage of the GDP. This is to facilitate comparison and also get a proper perspective. In ab- SALAM solute terms, the fiscal deficit may be
large, but if it is small compared to the size of the economy then it is not such a bad thing. Prudent fiscal management requires that government does not borrow to consume, in the normal course. That brings us to the FRBM Act.

Enacted in 2003, the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act requires the elimination of revenue deficit by 2008-09. This means that from 2008-09, the government will have to meet all its revenue expenditure from its revenue receipts. Any borrowing would then only be to meet capital expenditure — repayment of loans, lending and fresh investment. The Act also mandates a 3% limit on the fiscal deficit after 2008-09. This is a reasonable limit that allows significant-cant leverage to the government to build capacities in the economy without compromising fiscal stability.
It is important to note that since the entire Budget is at current market prices the deficits are also calculated with reference to GDP at current market prices.

We now look at the resources transferred to the states. As mentioned earlier, a part of the central government's gross tax collections goes to state governments. In the Budget 2007-08 the states were to receive nearly 27% of the gross tax collections.

The Centre also transfers substantial funds to states by way of support to their plans. These are largely in the nature of grants. Centre also gives large grants to states for managing centrally sponsored schemes. Interestingly, the government counts small savings transfers to state governments, which are in the nature of borrowings, as resources transferred to states. Before March 31, 1999, the Centre used to borrow net accretions to small savings (public provident fund, national saving scheme, etc) and lend them to the states. From April 1, 1999, states started receiving 75% of net small savings collections directly; the balance was invested in special Central Government securities during 1999-2000 to 2001-2002. The sums received in the National Small Savings Fund on redemption of special securities are being reinvested in special central government securities. From April 2002, the entire net collections under small saving schemes in each State & UT (with legislature) are advanced to the concerned State/UT government as investment in its special securities.

It seems many states are actually not keen on small savings funds as the cost of these borrowings works out higher than what they can get from the market. We now find the Centre is being forced to mop-up some small savings mobilisation (Rs 5750 crore Budgeted in 2007-08) through special securities as state governments are not taking the entire mobilisation.

This completes the discussion on Budget at a Glance. The expenditure and receipts Budget take up the respective heads in greater detail. We will now take up terms that require some discussion for a clearer understanding of the Budget.

VAT helps avoid cascading of taxes (tax being levied upon a price that includes one or more elements of tax) as a product passes through different stages of production/value addition. The tax is based on the difference between the value of the output and the value of the inputs used to produce it. The aim is to tax a firm only for the value added by it to the inputs it is using for manufacturing its output and not the entire input cost. VAT brings in transparency to commodity taxation: right now, only the final tax paid by the consumer is apparent to her, while with value added tax generalised to a goods and services tax (GST) that subsumes both central and state level taxation, the entire element of tax borne by a good (or a service) would be represented by the GST paid on it. A GST of 20% might seem high, but it would be about half the actual incidence of tax in most goods at present.

Bharat Nirman is the current UPA government’s ambitious programme for building infrastructure, especially in rural India. It has six components - irrigation, roads, water supply, housing, rural electrification and rural telecom connectivity. In each of these areas, the government has set targets that are to be achieved by the year 2009, within four years of its launch.

This is an additional levy on the basic tax liability. Governments resort to cesses for meeting specific expenditure. For instance, both corporate and individual income is at present subject to an education cess of 2%. In the last Budget the government had imposed an another 1% cess ‘Secondary and higher education cess on income tax’ to finance secondary and higher education.

Countervailing duty is a tax imposed on imports, over and above the basic import duty. CVD is at par with the excise duty paid by the domestic manufacturers of similar goods. This ensures a level playing field between imported goods and locally produced ones. An exemption from CVD places domestic industry at disadvantage and over long run discourages investments in affected sectors.

This is a tax levied on exports. In most instances the object is not revenue but to discourage exports of certain items. In the last Budget, for instance, the government imposed an export duty of Rs 300 per metric tonne on export of iron ores and concentrates and Rs 2,000 per metric tonne on export of chrome ores and concentrates.

The proposals of government for levy of new taxes, modification of the existing tax structure or continuance of the existing tax structure beyond the period approved by Parliament are submitted to Parliament through this bill. It is the key document as far as taxes are concerned.

Financial inclusion is universalising access to basic financial services (to have a bank account, timely and adequate credit) at an affordable cost. Exclusion from financial services imposes costs on those excluded; these are typically the disadvantaged and low income group. Exclusion forces them into informal arrangements such as borrowing from local money lenders, etc at high rates. Financial inclusion remain a serious issue in India. The government has proposed a no-frills account to provide cheap banking.

This tax on corporate profits was introduced in 1996-97 and has been modified since. If the tax payable by a company is less than 10% of its book profits, after availing of all eligible deductions, then 10% of book profits is the minimum tax payable. Book profits are profits calculated as per the Companies Act, while profits as per the Income Tax Act could be significantly lower, thanks to various exemptions and depreciation.

A pass through status helps avoid double taxation. Mutual funds, for instance, enjoy pass through status. The income earned by the funds is tax-free. Since mutual funds’ income is distributed to unit holders, who are in turn taxed on their income from such investments, any taxation of mutual funds would amount to double taxation. Essentially, it means that the income is merely passing through the MFs and, therefore, should not be taxed. The government allows VC funds in some sectors pass-through status to encourage investments in start-ups.

The term subvention finds a mention in almost every Budget. It refers to a grant of money in aid or support, mostly by the government. In the Indian context, for instance, the government sometimes asks institutions to provide loans to farmers at below market rates. The loss is usually made good through subventions.

As the name suggests, this is an additional charge or tax. A surcharge of 10% on a tax rate of 30% effectively raises the combined tax burden to 33%. In the case of individuals earning a taxable salary of more than Rs 10 lakh a surcharge of 10% is levied on income in excess of Rs 10 lakh. Corporate income is levied a flat surcharge of 10% in the case of domestic companies and 2.5% for foreign companies. Companies with revenue less than Rs 1 crore do not have to pay

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