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245 Star Export Houses, 5,000 small exporters denied GST dues: Report

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More than 5,000 exporters and 245 Star Export Houses have not been given their Goods and Services Tax (GST) dues as a result of overreach by the taxman, the Financial Express.

This comes at a time when the country's exports have not performed all too well, with merchandise exports having contracted by 0.34 percent year-on-year (YoY) in November. In the past eight months, this was the fifth time that exports shrank.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.

According to the report, the newly-designed system aims to identify genuine claims as against those suspected to have made excessive input tax credit claims. However, the long verification process undertaken by tax officials for the same has its downsides, with some genuine refund requests being withheld.

Sources told the paper what worries the community of exporters is that trading houses, some of which even have the Star Exporter tag, have faced similar issues. This, they said, highlighted that the system of identification was not without faults.

The director general of analytics and risk management (DGARM) wrote to tax officials, the report noted, wherein he pointed out that the methods undertaken to check malpractices on the part of exporters had either been ‘blunt’ or ‘draconian’.

Star Export Houses are basically established Indian exporters that have been accorded the status based on their export performance in two out of the three preceding financial years. The status allows the exporter to enjoy certain benefits and exemptions aimed at facilitating business.

Labour ministry to build Rs 20,000cr social security fund for unorganised sector

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The labour ministry is in talks with the corporate affairs ministry to build a social security fund worth Rs 20,000 crore for unorganised workers.

The fund will be used to provide benefits to more than 80 percent of professionals from the unorganised industry that consists of around 500 million workers, the report stated. The benefits include pension, maternity, insurance and so on.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.

The central government will administer the works from the unorganised sector in the social security code, introduced earlier in the recent winter session of Parliament.

The corporate affairs ministry controls the corporate social responsibility (CSR) norms as the fund is planned to be constituted with corporate contributions. 

A government source told the newspaper that the labour ministry would press for CSR to include such contributions. 

Indian companies that have a net profit of at least Rs 5 crore, or a turnover of at least Rs 1,000 crore, or a net worth of at least Rs 500 crore, have to spend two percent of their average net profit of the preceding three years on CSR activities, as per the Companies Act.

Under CSR activities in the last four years until June, more than Rs 52,533 crore have been spent on causes like environmental sustainability, sanitation, healthcare and education. Indian companies spent the maximum amount on education (Rs 15,742 crore) followed by healthcare (more than Rs 9,093 crore).

IMF says India in midst of significant economic slowdown, calls for urgent policy actions

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India is now in the midst of a significant economic slowdown, the International Monetary Fund has said, urging the government to take urgent policy actions to address the current prolonged downturn.

In its report released Monday, the IMF Directors noted that India's rapid economic expansion in recent years has lifted millions of people out of poverty. However, in the first half of 2019, a combination of factors led to subdued economic growth in India.

"The issue in India currently is the growth slowdown. We still believe it is mostly cyclical, not structural... because of the financial sector issues, we think, the recovery will be not as quickly quick as we thought earlier. That's the main issue," Ranil Salgado, Mission Chief for India in the IMF Asia and Pacific Department told PTI in an interview as it released its annual staff report on India.

With risks to the outlook tilted to the downside, the IMF Directors called for continued sound macroeconomic management. They saw an opportunity with the strong mandate of the new government to reinvigorate the reform agenda to boost inclusive and sustainable growth, the report said. The staff report was done in August when the IMF was not fully aware of India's current economic slowdown.

"India is now in the midst of a significant economic slowdown," Salgado told reporters over phone.

Growth in the second quarter of FY 2019/20 came in at a six-year low of 4.5 per cent (y/y), and the composition of growth indicates that private domestic demand expanded by only 1 per cent in the quarter. Most high-frequency indicators suggest that weak economic activity has continued into December, he said.

Salgado attributed this to the abrupt reduction in non-bank financial companies' (NBFC) credit expansion and the associated broad-based tightening of credit conditions appears to be an important factor and weak income growth, especially rural, has been affecting private consumption.

Private investment has been hindered by the financial sector difficulties (including in the public sector banks (PSBs)) and insufficient business confidence, he said. Some implementation issues with important and appropriate structural reforms, such as the nation-wide goods and services tax (GST), may also have played a role, he added.

Responding to a question, Salgado said that the new growth projections for India, which will come out in January, would be significantly lower than the previous ones.

"By other measures, India still is doing well. Reserves have risen to record level. The current account deficit has narrowed. Inflation, although we have a little jump right now because of vegetable prices, we think (it) has been under control for the last few years. So, by other measures, India is doing quite well. The issue is primarily how to address the growth slowdown," Salgado said.

Responding to a question, he said that the IMF has been surprised on India's slowdown. But he responded in negative if this slowdown can be described as an economic crisis.

"I think that would be going too far to say that. What we have seen is a growth slowdown. It may be longer than we had originally anticipated. But other elements like on the external side, on inflation, those are under controlled," he told PTI.

In the short term, he said, the most critical thing is carrying out reforms in the financial sector.

"We have, what we used to call a twin balance sheet problem being in the commercial banks and corporate sector. Now we may add additional balance sheet issue, which is on the NDFs. I'm including housing finance companies in that sector that as well.

"So the most immediate thing would be to try to have some policies related to restoring the health of this sector," he said.

Some steps have already been meaning the improvements that should be soon in place in terms of regulation of the sector, there is more information related to the sector; the steps to have a process to its resolution by including them, at least initially in the IBC process.

"On that though, we think a more comprehensive financial sector resolution plan or act as needed. There were earlier thoughts in this area by the government and we think those should be pursued again, because there are certain complications related to financial sector that don't necessarily work well in a simple kind of insolvency and bankruptcy code. It would be important to have a more comprehensive framework specifically for financial sector," the IMF official said.

Observing that early in the term is the time to push for structural reform, he said the current government in its first term carried out majority of its reforms early in the term.

"It is also true globally that it is easier to pursue structural reforms in the first half of the term," Salgado said.

From the IMF perspective, these areas are labour, land, different product market reform, continuing to enhance competition and also pursuing some of the more medium to long term reforms such as in education and health, he said.

Noting that the IMF believes that India has fiscal base at-risk, Salgado said that as a result New Delhi's ability to use a fiscal policy for stimulus is very limited.

"India already has a relatively high general government deficits and general government debt," he added.

Have sent auto sector's Budget wish list to finance minister: Arjun Ram Meghwal

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Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Monday said his ministry has received 3-4 demands, including suggestion to cut GST rates, from automobile industry body SIAM and has forwarded them to the finance minister.

Addressing the 4th annual SIAM CSR Conclave here, the minister of state for heavy industries and public enterprises asked the auto industry for more suggestions, if any, before the finalisation of the Budget.

"I have received 3-4 demands from the SIAM. I have sent your suggestions, including the one related to reduction in GST rate, to the finance minister. If you (industry) have any other suggestions please submit those as the Budget consultation process is still going on," Meghwal said here.

He said it was important to submit suggestions before the consultation process gets over.

"After the 'halwa ceremony', nothing can be added. So please give suggestions, if any, before that," Meghwal said adding that the finance ministry will not accept any suggestion after the halwa ceremony, which marks the launch of formal printing of Budget documents, is over.

Meghwal also emphasised on the need for corporates to wholeheartedly support social initiatives under their CSR activities.

The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) is a not for profit apex national body representing all major vehicle and vehicular engine manufacturers in India.

Indian pharma sector expected to grow at 10-12% during FY19-22, outlook stable: ICRA

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Ratings agency Icra on Wednesday said the Indian pharmaceutical industry is expected to grow around 10-12 percent between FY2019 and FY2022 while maintaining a stable outlook on the sector.

Icra cited abating headwinds from pricing pressure in the US (which is the largest regulated market), stable growth for the Indian market driven by increasing healthcare spending and better accessibility as likely key growth drivers for the Indian pharma companies, coupled with comfortable balance sheet structure.

It, however, said increased cost related to regulatory compliances, especially for the US market, price controls across markets and mandatory genericisation for Indian market remained key risks.

"The domestic pharmaceutical industry has gained adequate scale and generic drug development capabilities over a decade of growth which will keep them in good stead to capture bigger opportunities, especially in the specialty/niche segments in the regulated market," Icra said in a statement.

The FY2019-2022 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected to be around 10-12 percent for domestic pharmaceutical companies, it added.

Icra said growth from the US picked up in FY2019 to 12.1 percent after seeing a decline of 13.1 percent in FY2018.

"The growth was supported by higher market share for Indian players as several generic MNC players optimised product portfolios along with new product launches," it added.

The pricing pressure led by consolidation of supply chain in the US market and faster abbreviated new drug application approvals is abating and is expected to remain in mid-single digit in FY2020 compared to low teens in FY2018.

Icra, however, warned that while the US growth is expected to remain at high single digit to low double digit, it will face headwinds given the relatively moderate proportion of large size drugs going off patent, generic adoption reaching saturation levels in the US market and increased regulatory scrutiny as reflected in increased issuance of warning letters/import alerts.

It further said productivity of research and development expenditure, operational risk related to increased level of due diligence by regulatory agencies and price controls were key concerns.

GST Council to meet on Wednesday amidst talk of rate hike to meet revenue shortfall

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The GST Council will meet on Wednesday to review the taxation structure for shoring up the revenue as lower-than-expected collections has led to a delay in compensation payment to states.

Some of the states such as West Bengal have opposed any hike in cess rates or rate calibration amid a slowdown in the economy, stating that consumers as well as the industry are passing through a distressing time.

With the revenue shortfall looming large, there have been suggestions for raising GST rate and cess to meet the gap.

The GST Council headed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had sought suggestions from states on review of GST and compensation cess rates on various items, rate calibrations for addressing the inverted duty structure, compliance measures other than those currently under implementation to augment revenue.

In a letter to Sitharaman, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra said states have received letter from the GST Council wherein suggestions have been sought on review of items currently under exemption for shoring up GST revenues.

"This is indeed alarming. We should not in any way tinker with the rate structure or impose any new cess at a time when the industry and consumers are going through the most distressing times with 'stagflation' knocking at our door (stagnation accompanied by growing inflation)," Mitra said.

Many economists, including former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, have expressed fear of India getting into a slow growth high inflation or stagflation mode.

Rising food prices pushed retail inflation in November to an over three-year high of 5.54 per cent, while industrial sector output shrank for the third month in a row by 3.8 per cent in October, indicating deepening slowdown in the economy.

India's economic growth slowed to a 6-year low of 4.5 per cent in the July-September quarter. With inflation rising, fears of stagflation -- a fall in aggregate demand accompanied by rising inflation -- have resurfaced.

"Instead of increasing or imposing new taxes or cesses the GST Council has to collectively find ways and means to provide relief to industry so that they are able to tide over the present crisis...the solution of additional resource mobilisation lies not in tinkering with the rate structure but focus on anti evasion and fraud detection measures," Mitra said.

Facing heat over delay in payment of GST compensation, the central government on Monday released Rs 35,298 crore to states to make up for the loss of revenue due to rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

When GST was rolled out on July 1, 2017, states were through legislation promised to be compensated for the loss of revenue as not just their taxes such as VAT were being subsumed in the new levy but also their right to levy taxes was being snatched.

The compensation amount was fixed at 14 per cent on top of revenue in the base year of 2016-17. The corpus for paying compensation was collected by levying a cess on top of GST rates on tobacco products, cigarettes, aerated water, automobiles, and coal.

The Central GST collection fell short of the Budget Estimate by nearly 40 per cent during the April-November period of 2019-20, according to government data.

The actual CGST collection during April-November stood at Rs 3,28,365 crore, while the Budget Estimate was Rs 5,26,000 crore for these months.

According to sources, the Finance Ministry has set a Rs 1.1 lakh crore monthly GST collection target for the remainining four months of 2019-20 financial year

Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey had a video conference meeting with top tax officials and impressed upon them to step up measures to achieve direct and indirect tax collection targets.

Officers have been particularly urged to ensure that during field enforcement drive and visits, no taxpayer is overreached or troubled, the source said.

IT industry seeks 15% corp tax rate for services cos in SEZs, fund for deep-tech startups

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A 15 per cent corporate tax rate for services companies in SEZs, setting up a fund for deep-tech startups and establishing clusters to demonstrate design-to-manufacturing capabilities of tech firms were some of the key demands made by the IT sector at the pre-budget consultation on Monday.

Representatives from the IT, startups and mobile devices sectors met Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to put forward their demands from the Budget next year.

"What we have suggested is that given that they have reduced the manufacturing corporate tax rate to 15 per cent...the fact that the SEZ sunset is happening, at least for the new services companies in SEZs, if you make it 15 (per cent), then you will have one composite rate in SEZ for both manufacturing and services," Nasscom Senior Director and Public Policy Head Ashish Aggarwal told PTI after the over two-hour meeting.

He added that combined with other criteria like employment and investments over a period of time, SEZs can drive further growth.

Aggarwal said another recommendation made was to drive innovation and growth for deep-tech startups in the country.

"Set up a fund for deep-tech companies...it is no longer just about low-value jobs. The focus is on deep-tech. China has attracted a lot of investment. Globally, we see a trillion dollar opportunity till 2035 in deep-tech, so setting up a fund for enabling access of capital to deep-tech startups," he added.

Nasscom has also suggested setting up innovation clusters where "design-to-manufacture" capabilities of engineering and IT companies can be demonstrated.

"So you walk in with an idea and go out with a prototype. Such clusters do exist globally and this can be used as an opportunity to showcase India's capabilities as a sector," he said adding there were other areas as well where clarity has been sought by the industry body.

Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association President Rajat Tandon said the body's demands were primarily around clarity and consistency of rules.

"Our demands have been primarily around clarity and consistency, so that confidence of international stakeholders is there and hopefully, we can see more investments coming in. We are at the tip of the iceberg, and the minister has been very assuring," he added.

He said clarifications were needed around areas like certain treaties, sunset clauses and if pool of capital can be increased from investments done by global pension funds that can "further help build the ecosystem".

Vishakha Saigal, Vice President and Head at Reliance Jio, pointed out that it is important that a robust data centre infrastructure is created to meet the burgeoning data demand seen in the country.

"It is very important to have a robust data structure and complete infrastructure in India because without that, nothing is going to happen...Our current data centre capacities, they are extremely less, the demand is already outstripping the supply," she said.

Saigal noted that India is already the largest data consumer in the world and has outpaced even developed countries.

"So if we don't catch up on data centre infrastructure in India, it is very difficult to achieve our target for USD 1 trillion (digital) economy," she said.

Saigal highlighted that it is also important to create an "enabling PoS (point of sale) infrastructure" in areas which are under- penetrated.

"Currently, there are large number of merchants which are still not on board, so to drive government vision of cashless economy, it is imperative that the government comes out with a subsidy, fiscal measures or incentives for players who are actually reaching out with innovative solutions and PoS infrastructure in rural areas in tier II and III cities, which are under-penetrated in terms of financial transactions," she said.

Sitharaman will meet different stakeholder groups as part of pre-budget consultations for the forthcoming General Budget 2020-21.

During Monday's meeting, issues around use of Big Data technology, digital infrastructure and role of government, and regulation of digital economy, especially in the wake of privacy concerns were discussed.

Financial regulation, ease of doing business for startups, infrastructure gaps for digital India and taxation issues were also discussed, an official statement said.

The participants shared their views and suggestions regarding Big Data, incentives for encouraging setting up of data centres, fiscal incentives for data localisation, incentives for pushing digital penetration in rural areas, and corporate guarantee to startups for competing with other nations, it added.

Other demands included rationalisation of MAT tax rate, tax exemption for startup units, creation of specific agency for looking after cross border financial crimes, increasing women employment (gender dividend in skill development), training youth in skill development along with international internships and incentivising Research & Development (R&D) within India.

"While the experts suggested improvements in their respective fields, they also gave a variety of solutions to the sector specific problems. Many speakers suggested giving tax sops to startups and nurture them in the country," the statement said.

The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur, Finance Secretary Rajeev Kumar, Economic Affairs Secretary Atanu Chakraborty, Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, MeitY Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash and others.

Representatives from the industry included Wipro Global Chief Legal Officer Deepak Acharya, Apple India Managing Director (Strategy and Policy) Virat Bhatia and Lava International CMD Hari Om Rai.

Electronic and Computer Software Export Promotion Council Chairman Mandeep Singh Puri, Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India (TEMA) President NK Goyal and Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) Chairman Pankaj Mohindroo were also present.

India's story has just begun: NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant

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The series of pathbreaking and ambitious reforms unleashed by the Modi government in the last few years will make India a very competitive and productively-efficient economy in the long run, a top Indian official said on December 13.

"There is a great positivity about India," NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant told PTI in an interview here as he wound up his three-city US tour for a series of interaction with academicians, innovators, startups, corporate leaders and government officials in Boston, New York and Washington DC.

People here believe that the fundamental reforms that have been gathered out in India across the economy, including GST, in terms of ending crony capitalism with the bankruptcy code, in terms of real estate reforms through RERA and in terms of direct benefit transfer, "will make India a very competitive and productively-efficient economy in the long run," Kant said.

"India's story has just begun," he added.

The series of pathbreaking and ambitious reforms unleashed by the Modi government in the last few years will make India a very competitive and productively-efficient economy in the long run, a top Indian official said on December 13.

"There is a great positivity about India," NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant told PTI in an interview here as he wound up his three-city US tour for a series of interaction with academicians, innovators, startups, corporate leaders and government officials in Boston, New York and Washington DC.

People here believe that the fundamental reforms that have been gathered out in India across the economy, including GST, in terms of ending crony capitalism with the bankruptcy code, in terms of real estate reforms through RERA and in terms of direct benefit transfer, "will make India a very competitive and productively-efficient economy in the long run," Kant said.

"India's story has just begun," he added.

Vegetable oil imports down marginally to 11.28 lakh tonne in November

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Vegetable oil imports fell marginally to 11.28 lakh tonne in November due to decline in inward shipments of non-edible oil, according to Solvent Extractors' Association.

Out of the total vegetable oil import, the shipments of edible oil rose to 10,97,424 tonne in November 2019 from 10,73,353 tonne in the same month last year.

Non-edible oils import, however, fell to 30,796 tonne compared to 60,450 tonne in the year-ago period, SEA said in a statement.

Out of the total vegetable oil import, the shipments of edible oil rose to 10,97,424 tonne in November 2019 from 10,73,353 tonne in the same month last year.

Non-edible oils import, however, fell to 30,796 tonne compared to 60,450 tonne in the year-ago period, SEA said in a statement.

Centre's nod for 22 express highways worth Rs 1.5 lakh cr in Karnataka

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In a major thrust to infrastructure development in Karnataka, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry on December 10 gave the nod for 22 Green express highways in Karnataka worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore.

This includes a new alignment of the Pune-Bengaluru Express Highway, which will be completed in the next few years at a cost of Rs 50,000 crore.

"Today we met Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. We have just sanctioned projects worth more than Rs 1.5 lakh crore for the state. Actually, the annual infrastruture plan for Karnataka was Rs 2,150 crore, which we decided to increase to Rs 3,990 crore," said Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways.

He was speaking at the inaugural session of the 10th edition of Excon-2019, a five-day International Construction Equipment and Construction Technology Trade Fair here.

The event has been organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in association with the Karnataka government, Ministry for Road Transport and Highways and the National Highway Authority of India.

“We are making 22 green express highways. Today we cleared the Pune-Bengaluru project as a Green Express Highway, a new alignment of 600 km, costing about Rs 50,000 crore." Gadkari said, adding his ministry and the state have sanctioned 2,300 km of new roads where the Detailed Project Report is ready.

The bidding process would start soon, he said, adding that the Chief Minister had given an assurance on clearing any hassles related to land acquisition and environment clearance for these projects.

Another important infrastructure project of ring road in Bengaluru was also resolved in the meeting, with the Centre agreeing to the States request to bear 80 per cent of the land acquisition cost, he said.

However, the Ministry expected the state to exempt taxes on steel and cement to be used for building the ring road.

“So, today the problem with the ring road is resolved and today it will be a great present from the chief minister to the people of Karnataka, Gadkari said.

He opined that these highway projects would become the growth engine for Karnataka.

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