Taxation in India

Taxes are the government’s way of earning an income which can then be used for various projects that the government needs to indulge in to help boost the country’s economy or its people. Taxes in India are decided on by the central and state governments with local governments, such as municipalities, also deciding on smaller taxes that can be levied within their jurisdiction. It must, however, be remembered that the government cannot impose any tax that it wishes to. All the taxes imposed by the government must be laws.

Types of Taxes:

Taxes are of two distinct types, direct and indirect taxes. The difference comes in the way these taxes are implemented. Some are paid directly by you, such as the dreaded income tax, wealth tax, corporate tax etc. while others are indirect taxes, such as the value added tax, service tax, sales tax, etc.

1) Direct Tax:

Direct tax, as stated earlier, are taxes that are paid directly by you. These taxes are levied directly on an entity or an individual and cannot be transferred onto anyone else. One of the bodies that overlooks these direct taxes is the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) which is a part of the Department of Revenue. It has, to help it with its duties, the support of various acts that govern various aspects of direct taxes. Some of these acts are:

    • Income Tax Act:
    • This is also known as the

IT Act

    of 1961 and sets the rules that govern income tax in India. The income, which this act taxes, can come from any source like a business, owning a house or property, gains received from investments and salaries, etc. This is the act that defines how much the tax benefit on a fixed deposit or a life insurance premium will be. It is also the act that decides how much of your income can you save through investments and what the slab for the income tax will be.

  • Wealth Tax Act:
  • The Wealth Tax Act was enacted in 1951 and is responsible for the taxation related to the net wealth of an individual, a company or a Hindu Unified Family. The simplest calculation of wealth tax was that if the net wealth exceeded Rs. 30 lakhs, then 1% of the amount that exceeded Rs. 30 lakhs was payable as tax. It was abolished in the budget announced in 2015. It has since been replaced with a surcharge of 12% on individuals that earn more than Rs. 1 crore per annum. It is also applicable to companies that have a revenue of over Rs. 10 crores per annum. The new guidelines drastically increased the amount the government would collect in taxes as opposed the amount they would collect through the wealth tax.

  • Gift Tax Act:
  • The Gift Tax Act came into existence in 1958 and stated that if an individual received gifts, monetary or valuables, as gifts, a tax was to be to be paid on such gifts. The tax on such gifts was maintained at 30% but it was abolished in 1998. Initially if a gift was given, and it was something like property, jewellery, shares etc. it was taxable. According to the new rules gifts given by family members like brothers, sister, parents, spouse, aunts and uncles are not taxable. Even gifts given to you by the local authorities is exempt from this tax. How the tax works now is that if someone, other than the exempt entities, gifts you anything that exceeds a value of Rs. 50,000 then the entire gift amount is taxable.

  • Expenditure Tax Act:
  • This is an act that came into existence in 1987 and deals with the expenses you, as an individual, may incur while availing the services of a hotel or a restaurant. It is applicable to all of India except Jammu and Kashmir. It states that certain expenses are chargeable under this act if they exceed Rs. 3,000 in the case of a hotel and all expenses incurred in a restaurant.

  • Interest Tax Act:
  • The Interest Tax Act of 1974 deals with the tax that was payable on interest earned in certain specific situations. In the last amendment to the act it was stated that the act does not apply to interest that was earned after March 2000.

2) Indirect Tax:

By definition, indirect taxes are those taxes that are levied on goods or services. They differ from direct taxes because they are not levied on a person who pays them directly to the government, they are instead levied on products and are collected by an intermediary, the person selling the product. The most common examples of indirect tax can be VAT (Value Added Tax), Taxes on Imported Goods, Sales Tax, etc. These taxes are levied by adding them to the price of the service or product which tends to push the cost of the product up.

Examples of Direct Taxes:

These are some of the direct taxes that you pay

      • Income Tax:
      • This is one of the most well-known and least understood taxes. It is the tax that is levied on your earning in a financial year. There are many facets to income tax, such as the tax slabs, taxable income, tax deducted at source (TDS), reduction of taxable income, etc. The tax is applicable to both individuals and companies. For individuals, the tax that they have to pay depends on which tax bracket they fall in. This bracket or slab determines the tax to be paid based on the annual income of the assessee and ranges from no tax to 30% tax for the high income groups.

      • Capital Gains Tax:
      • This is a tax that is payable whenever you receive a sizable amount of money. It could be from an investment or from the sale of a property. It is usually of two types, short term capital gains from investments held for less than 36 months and long term capital gains from investments held for longer than 36 months. The tax applicable for each is also very different since the tax on short term gains is calculated based in the income bracket that you fall in and the tax on long term gains is 20%. The interest thing about this tax is that the gain doesn’t always have to be in the form of money. It could also be an exchange in kind in which case the value of the exchange will be considered for taxation.

      • Securities Transaction Tax:
      • It’s no secret that if you know how to trade properly on the stock market, and trade in securities, you stand to make a substantial amount of money. This too is a source of income but it has its own tax which is known as the Securities Transaction Tax

    . How this tax is levied is by adding the tax to the price of the share. This means that every time you buy or sell shares, you pay this tax. All securities traded on the Indian stock exchange have this tax attached to them.

  • Perquisite Tax:
  • Perquisites are all the perks or privileges that employers may extend to employees. These privileges may include a house provided by the company or a car for your use, given to you by the company. These perks are not just limited to big compensation like cars and houses, they can even include things like compensation for fuel or phone bills. How this tax is levied is by figuring out how that perk has been acquired by the company or used by the employee. In the case of cars, it may be so that a car provided by the company and used for both personal and official purposes is eligible for tax whereas a car used only for official purposes is not.

  • Corporate Tax:
  • Corporate tax is the income tax that is paid by companies from the revenue they earn. This tax also comes with a slab of its own that decides how much tax the company has to pay. For example a domestic company, which has a revenue of less than Rs. 1 crore per annum, won’t have to pay this tax but one that has a revenue of more than Rs. 1 crore per annum will have to pay this tax. It is also referred to as a surcharge and is different for different revenue brackets. It is also different for international companies where the corporate tax may be 41.2% if the company has a revenue of less than Rs. 10 million and so on.

  • Wealth Tax:
  • The wealth tax, governed by the Wealth Tax Act, allows the government to impose a tax on the net wealth of a person, an HUF or a company. This tax is set to be abolished in 2016 but until then the tax levied on the net wealth is about 1% of the wealth that exceeds Rs. 30 lakhs. There are exceptions to this tax which are organisations that don’t have to pay wealth tax. These organisations could be trusts, partnership firms, social clubs, political parties, etc.

Examples of Indirect Taxes:

These are some of the common indirect taxes that you pay.

      • Sales Tax:
      • As the name suggests, sales tax

        is a tax that is levied on the sale of a product. This product can be something that was produced in India or imported and can even cover services rendered. This tax is levied on the seller of the product who then transfers it onto the person who buys said product with the sales tax added to the price of the product. The limitation of this tax is that it can be levied only ones for a particular product, which means that if the product is sold a second time, sales tax cannot be applied to it.

      • Service Tax:
      • Like sales tax is added to the price of goods sold in India, so is service tax added to services provided in India. In the reading of the budget 2015, it was announced that the service tax will be raised from 12.36% to 14%. It is not applicable on goods but on companies that provide services and is collected every month or once every quarter based on how the services are provided. If the establishment is an individual service provider then the service tax is paid only once the customer pays the bills however, for companies the service tax is payable the moment the invoice is raised, irrespective of the customer paying the bill. An important thing to remember is that since the service at a restaurant is a combination of the food, the waiter and the premises themselves, it is difficult to pin point what qualifies for service tax. To remove any ambiguity, in this regard, it has been announced that the service tax in restaurants will be levied only on 40% of the total bill.

      • Value Added Tax:
      • The value added tax is a tax that is levied at the discretion of the state government and not all states implemented it when it was first announced. The tax is levied on various goods sold in the state and the amount of the tax is decided by the state itself. For example in Gujrat the government split all the good into various categories called schedules. There are 3 schedules and each schedule has its own VAT percentage. For Schedule 3 the VAT is 1%, for schedule 2 the VAT is 5% and so on. Goods that have not been classified into any category have a VAT of 15%.

      • Custom duty & Octroi:
      • When you purchase anything that needs to be imported from another country, a charge is applied on it and that is the customs duty. It applies to all the products that come in via land, sea or air. Even if you bring in products bought in another country to India, a customs duty

    can be levied on it. The purpose of the customs duty is to ensure that all the goods entering the country are taxed and paid for. Just as customs duty ensures that goods for other countries are taxed, octroi is meant to ensure that goods crossing state borders within India are taxed appropriately. It is levied by the state government and functions in much the same way as customs duty does.

  • Excise Duty:
  • This is a tax that is levied on all the goods manufactured or produced in India. It is different from customs duty because it is applicable only on things produced in India and is also known as the Central Value Added Tax or CENVAT. This tax is collected by the government from the manufacturer of the goods. It can also be collected from those entities that receive manufactured goods and employ people to transport the goods from the manufacturer to themselves.

Benefits of Taxes:

Even though most people are always at odds with the idea of taxation, there are some advantages to taxes, the least of which is that it provides the government the resources it needs for economic development. Some of the other benefits of taxes are:

  • It encourages savings and investments because if a person invests in certain instruments, then the amount invested is reduced from their taxable income thus bringing down the tax they have to pay. This investment is subject to certain limits that are detailed in the IT Act.
  • Paying taxes means that you have to file your tax returns which in turn means that when you apply for a home loan for that home loan, it’s easier to get it because one of the things many banks require is proof that you have been filing taxes regularly.

Penalty for Not Paying Taxes:

Each type of tax has its own penalties associated with it. These penalties can range from fines to imprisonment depending on the severity of the crime. In some cases the penalty could be that you will have to pay what is owed in taxes along with additional sums as fine, which are decided upon by government officials.

It is always advisable to pay taxes on time and always be aware of the taxes that you, as a consumer, are liable to pay so that no-one can take you for a ride.