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Budget: tax down; airfare, lab tests costly

Budget: tax down; airfare, lab tests costly

A play-safe budget on Monday raised the income tax exemption limit to Rs 1.80 lakh.

New Delhi: A play-safe budget on Monday raised the income tax exemption limit from Rs 1.60 lakh to Rs 1.80 lakh, leaving at least an extra Rs 2,000 in the hands of tax paying men across the board and made air travel, hotel accommodation and drinking in AC restaurants costlier.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented the 2011-12 budget, which shows a net revenue loss of Rs 200 crore, imposed an excise duty of one per cent on 130 specified items which will, however, exempt food and fuel.

The third budget by Mukherjee charted a road map for financial sector reforms by vowing to bring in various legislations, raised social sector spending by 17 per cent to Rs 1,60,887 crore, infrastructure spending by Rs 2,14,000 crore, up by over 23 per cent, and the credit target for farmers by Rs 1 lakh crore from Rs 3.75 lakh crore to Rs 4.75 lakh crore.

He also gave some relief to corporates by reducing the current income tax surcharge of 7.5 per cent on domestic companies to five per cent but raised the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) from 18 to 18.5 per cent including developers of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in it.

While leaving the rest of exemption slabs, surcharge and cess on income tax untouched, he reduced the qualifying age of senior citizens from 65 to 60 years, raised their exemption limit from Rs 2.40 lakh to Rs 2.50 lakh. No special benefit was announced for women below 60 years whose basic exemption limit remains at Rs 1.90 lakh.

Mukherjee also created a new category of "Very Senior Citizens" of 80 years and above who will be eligible for a higher exemption limit of Rs 5 lakhs. The raising of exemption limit for those above 60 but below 65 will benefit men up to to Rs 9,270 and women up to Rs 6,180.

Between 65 and 80 the benefit will be Rs 1,030 and beyond 80 years both men and women will get up to Rs 26,780.

The budget sought to widen the ambit of the service tax net by which hotel accommodation above Rs 1,000 a day and AC restaurants that serve liquor will be included.

The scope of life insurance service is being widened to cover all services provided to any person by an insurer and legal services provided by business entity to individuals and individuals to entities but not individuals to individuals.

Opposition parties flayed the budget saying it was very "disappointing and direction less" while the industry welcomed it as "positive and growth oriented".

Hailing the "commendable job" done by his Finance Minister, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the signals are that this is a government which is reform oriented but admitted "you cannot please all people".

All services including diagnostic services provided by AC clinical establishments with more than 25 beds and services provided by a doctor who owns such establishments have been brought under the service tax net.

Economy class domestic travel by air will cost Rs 50 more while international travel will cost Rs 250 more. Higher class domestic travel by air attract a standard 10 per cent service tax bringing it on par with international higher class travel.

While direct tax changes are expected to result in a revenue loss of Rs 11,500 crore, the net revenue gain on account of indirect taxes is likely to be Rs 11,300 crore, including an additional Rs 4,000 crore on account of service tax changes.

Prepared food stuff like sugar confectionery, pastry and cakes, starches, paper and articles of paper, textile goods, drugs and medicinal equipments will become costlier with increase in the concessional rate of excise duty from four per cent to five per cent.

Ready made garments and branded textile made ups will also become costlier with the levy of mandatory 10 per cent excise duty. Exemptions from excise duty is being withdrawn on micro processor for computers, floppy and hard disc drive, CD-Rom drive, DVD drives and writers making it costlier but they will attract only five per cent concessional duty.

Items that will become cheaper are sanitary napkins, baby and clinical diapers and adult diapers with reduction of excise duty, factory built ambulances, precious metals including gold and silver. However, one per cent excise duty is being imposed on branded jewellery and branded articles of precious metals.

The Budget for next year pegs the fiscal deficit at 4.6 per cent of GDP for 2011-12 which works out to Rs 4,12,817 crore. Gross tax receipts are estimated at Rs 9,32,440 crore, an increase of 24.9 per cent over the Budget Estimates for 2010-11.

Net non-tax revenue receipts for the next financial year are estimated Rs 1,25,435 crore. The total expenditure proposed for 2011-12 is Rs 12,57,729 crore. Plan expenditure will be Rs 4,41,547 crore, an increase of 18 per cent and non-Plan expenditure will be Rs 8,16,182 crore, an increase of 10.9 per cent over Budget estimates of 2010-11.

Defence expenditure for the next year has been pegged at Rs 1,64,415, an increase of Rs 17,071 crore over the last financial year. This includes a capital expenditure of Rs 69,199 crore.

"Needless to say, any further requirement for the country's defence would be met," Mukherjee said.

The Budget has raised allocation for social sector spending by 17 per cent to Rs 1,60,887 crore and the allocation for Bharat Nirman programme by Rs 10,000 crore.

Allocation for infrastructure has been increased by over 23 per cent to Rs 2,14,000 crore and the credit to farmers hiked by Rs 1 lakh crore to Rs 4,75,000 crore.

The Budget assumes open market borrowing of Rs 3.43 lakh crore. Extension of nutrient-based subsidy to cover urea is under active consideration.

In a boost to housing sector finance, the Budget continued the scheme of interest subvention of one per cent on housing loans and liberalised it by extending it up to Rs 25 lakh from the present Rs 10 and Rs 15 respectively.

The Finance Minister also proposed various measures to achieve a closer fit between the present Service Tax regime and its successor Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The Minister announced a broad set of financial sector reforms, saying he proposed to move the legislations relating to insurance laws, LIC, revised pension fund bill, banking laws amendment bill, State Bank of India Subsidiaries Bill and a bill on Factoring and Assignment of Receivables.