Budget 2017: Giving SMEs a stronger footing

SMEs play a crucial role in the economic development of India. They contribute to 45% of the industrial output, 40% of the exports and 42% of the employment in the country. Although these enterprises are highly significant to the economy, they are regularly challenged by policies, laws and processes In recognition of this, the Union Budget 2017 gave start-ups and SMEs a lot to cheer about.

Increasing Financial Viability with a Lower Tax Burden

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a reduction in corporate tax from 30% to 25% for SMEs with an annual turnover of less than ₹50 crores. Moreover, the presumptive tax rate for SMEs with an annual turnover of up to ₹2 crores has been lowered from 8% to 6%. Both these measures would increase the bottom-line of SMEs. These enterprises work on low profits, and their survival is often threatened by even minor fluctuations in the business. The enhanced financial viability would increase the survival rate of SMEs.

At the same time, Budget 2017 has tried to align with the broader objective of increased digitalization. The proposed reduction in presumptive tax is applicable only for a firm’s gross receipts that are received via digital transactions. Also, no cash transaction above ₹3 lakhs would be permitted going forward. Both these measures have been designed to increase transparency and widen the tax base through digitalization.

Much Needed Breaks

Start-ups need maximum support during their initial years. From the next fiscal year, start-ups would have to pay taxes for only three out of seven years, up from last year’s exemption limit of five years, if they recorded profits. This is a great opportunity for start-ups and the economy. While a huge percentage of start-ups fail, these enterprises are responsible for introducing the most innovative products and services. The tax break announced by the Finance Minister would give start-ups a better fighting chance of survival and encourage more innovative ideas to be executed well.

Loans, Financing & Funding

The Finance Minister doubled the lending target to ₹2.44 lakh crores for the next fiscal year, making more credit available to small businesses to finance their working capital needs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already announced, on December 31, an increase in government credit guarantees for SMEs from ₹1 crore to ₹2 crores.

The FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) is to be abolished in the upcoming fiscal year. This would significantly liberalize policy related to FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). This is expected to boost retail and ecommerce in the country. Mr. Jaitley mentioned that further FDI relaxations were under consideration.

Most traditional banks are unwilling to give loans to SMEs due to the fear of defaults. Tax concession on provisions for non-performing assets (NPAs) and capital infusion of ₹10,000 crores for state-owned lenders would make loans more accessible to SMEs.

To encourage more investments into start-ups, the condition of continuous holding of 51% voting rights has been relaxed for carrying forward of losses by start-ups, provided the founder remains invested in the business.

Building on Digital India

While saying the almost 125 lakh people had adopted the BHIM digital payment app, the Finance Minister announced two new schemes – cashback for merchants and referral bonus for individuals.

Aadhaar Pay, the merchant version of the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS), is to be launched shortly. This app would enable consumers to make payments without using cards, e-wallets or even mobile phones, since the merchant’s device would be linked to an Aadhaar biometric reader. More than a billion people in India already have Aadhaar cards, and this system would make most financial transactions simple, fast and traceable. It would be a boon for raising loans, enabling fintech lenders to link repayment to payments received by the SME.

The government would be targeting ₹2500 crore digital transactions in FY18 through BHIM, Aadhaar Pay, IMPS and debit cards. The Finance Minister indicated that banks would have to introduce 10 lakh new point-of-sale (PoS) terminals by March and 20 lakh Aadhaar-based PoS terminals by September, allowing more digital transactions, which would enhance financial inclusion and transparency.

Infrastructure

For the upcoming fiscal year, the Finance Minister announced a step-up in the total allocation for infrastructure development to an all-time high of ₹3.96 lakh crores, including increased allocations for railways, road and shipping. Infrastructural development eases a huge bottleneck faced by SMEs in transporting their goods to other regions in a timely and cost-effective manner. Better infrastructure would give confidence to SMEs to expand their markets farther and reduce wastage and spoilage during transportation.

Moreover, the roll out of GST (Goods and Services Tax), which the Finance Minister indicated was tracking as planned, would further increase the ease of doing business in other states.

An allocation of ₹10,000 crores towards the Bharat Net project was announced. This would increase access to high-speed broadband across India, facilitating communication and allowing SMEs to reach out to clients located in various corners of the country in a cost-efficient way. The geographic scale achieved will help SMEs to break physical boundaries and leverage bigger opportunities for growth.

The latest Union Budget comes as a respite for start-ups and SMEs. The strengthening of these businesses would play a critical role in India’s transition to becoming an economic superpower.

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Digital financing: The way forward for financial inclusion in Asia – E27

The authors Aman Bhargava and Akshay Sharma are Senior Vice President and Manager at Capital Float, respectively. Capital Float specialises in digital lending to MSMEs in India.

In this age of digital disruption where technology has made an impact across a number of service sectors — e.g. transportation (Uber), accommodation (Airbnb), retail (Amazon) etc.– finance is clearly no exception. Post the financial crisis, incumbent large financial institutions have been weathering a storm of increased capital requirements (i.e. reduced ability to lend) and increased regulatory costs whilst dealing with an erosion of public confidence.

Digital lending, a subset of digital finance, has been growing rapidly in several large economies in tandem with lending platforms (e.g. Lending Club in the US, Funding Circle in the UK, and Lufax in China). As terms such as peer to peer (P2P) and marketplace lending have come to dominate headlines, digital lending has begun to revolutionise the traditional lending business through the use of technology in order to reduce costs, underwritten with surrogate data points, and speeded up processes.

Lending — ripe for disruption

Lending itself consists of three key areas:

  • (i) Origination (or customer acquisition)
  • (ii) Underwriting (or credit assessment)
  • (iii) Execution (including documentation, contract and flow of monies)

Conventional lending, especially in emerging economies, is an archaic process that is ripe for disruption in each of the above areas.

Traditionally, customer acquisition occurs via brokers or middlemen, underwriting is heavily collateral-based and execution is a tedious process requiring a lot of paperwork that usually stretches up to six weeks in duration. Furthermore, there is a fear of rejection, which in several cultures prevents a number of creditworthy borrowers from applying.

While the opportunity to disrupt traditional financial services is immense, it is important to understand the key drivers in this field. Like most sectors, it is imperative that governments put in place an ecosystem that can help and enable players to create these disruptions.

The three most important enablers for digital lending are:

1. Telecommunications and connectivity

The telecommunication sector has been pivotal in spurring the digital revolution globally. Creating networks that enable consumers to connect from computers, laptops and mobiles are the most basic requirements to kickstart a digital revolution.

From financial services to retailers, everybody depends on networks to provide a compelling online and mobile experience. Telecom operators must offer an integrated, multi-channel or omni-channel user experience: on the desktop, on mobile devices and in stores. The reach of such networks is essential for digital finance to succeed and penetrate new markets.

2. Technology and data

Technology, as one would expect, is at the heart of the digital revolution. Investments in technology by organisations have only been increasing over time.

Advances in digital technology have allowed services to reach a number of people, who had limited or no access earlier. If these advances have to continue, then increased capital investment in equipment and software is an absolute must. Encouraging companies to invest more in R&D, say, via tax incentives is crucial to penetrating the consumer base.

3. Regulations and policies

Post the financial crisis, increased regulations have forced large banks to reconsider their traditional methods, especially in light of additional balance sheet charges. This has opened up new markets globally.

Regulators in the West, particularly the UK followed by the US, have been proactive in allowing these markets to grow and challenge the traditional players. As the rest of the world cautiously opens up to this new space, digital finance players have thrived under flexible and friendly regulations.

It is imperative to encourage an atmosphere in which innovation in financial services and products offered to consumers is prevalent. While the need to be cautious post the 2008 crisis is justified, regulators should be careful not to stamp out truly innovative and disruptive ideas.

Digital finance — banking for the ‘unbanked’

A recent report by The Guardian, states that almost 500 million people across Southeast Asia still often turn to informal moneylenders to meet their everyday needs. Decisions requiring credit, such as expanding a business, buying a house or paying medical bills, are taken out of the hands of the so-called “unbanked”. Uninsured and with no savings, they are also less resilient to health problems, unemployment or a natural disaster.

Digital finance holds the key for financial inclusion, as nearly 50 per cent of the population in developing countries own mobile phones. The impact of digital lending in emerging economies goes beyond the traditional financial services offered. It also helps create additional jobs and acts as an economic stimulator.

A number of firms in Africa and Asia are using digital finance to tackle development challenges. Technological innovations, like mobile money, have acted as catalysts in providing a variety of financial services. Consumers at the bottom of the pyramid in several countries today are using mobile money to make payments for a wide range of services.

Apart from traditional services — such as credit, savings and financial education — consumers also enjoy access to money-transfer services, micro-loans and insurance.

How can we make this happen?

MSMEs (Micro Small and Medium Enterprises) also stand to gain substantially from digital lending. Apart from access to finances, electronic payment systems allow them to secure a diverse range of financial products and an opportunity to build a financial history. The importance of digital finance in building both credit history and transactional data of individuals and firms for lenders cannot be underestimated.

Close public-private cooperation is a key factor for this type of innovation to be taken to scale and enable people to live a more secured, empowered and included life. If approached wisely, it is possible for emerging economies to leapfrog developed nations in the adoption of these digital channels, and at the same time accelerate financial inclusion.

Article sourced from E27. Read the original article here.

Oct 24, 2018

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Tax Slabs & Understanding the Dynamics of Transactions under GST

Effective July 01, India would be joining a host of 160 other countries that have implemented GST/VAT in some form. This is a big step towards streamlined taxation norms. From new indirect tax slabs to drastically different taxation procedures, the Goods and Services Tax or the GST, will compel companies and taxpayers to realign their operating models.

Tax slabs in India under GST 

The new indirect taxation regime is based on a four-slab tax structure, and goods and services feature in these depending on their nature – whether it is a luxury item, a necessity or a leisure item. A total of 1211 items have been categorised under these four tax slabs, with a bulk of them (including services) being placed in the 18% bracket.

Previous tax rate (Approximate range) GST Rate Goods Services
No tax No tax Items of daily and mass consumption such as milk, butter, fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, flours, bread, salt, prasad, bindi, sindoor, stamps and judicial papers, colouring books, newspapers, bangles etc. Hotels and lodges with a tariff below Rs 1000.
~ 5% (5% VAT and no excise) 5% Apparel below Rs 1000 and footwear below Rs 500, and essentials like kerosene and coal, medicines and insulin, stents. Edible oil, tea, coffee, frozen vegetables, skimmed milk powder, cashewnuts, incense sticks. Small restaurants, transport services like railways and air which have petroleum as the main input. Job works in textiles, gems, and jewellery.
~ 9% to 15% 12% Apparel over Rs 1000, Ayurvedic medicines, exercise books, preserves like pickles, sauces, ketchups, and fruit and vegetable preserves, umbrellas and packaged foods like butter, ghee, cheese, dry fruits. Basic cell phones. Non-AC hotels, pesticides and fertilisers, business class air tickets and work contracts.
~ 15% and 21% 28% Luxury goods and sin goods: SUVs, aerated drinks, white goods, paints,  ATM/ vending machines, vehicles, personal aircrafts; Sin goods such as bidis, chewing gum, paan masala. Certain select consumables will attract an additional cess. Movie tickets above Rs 100, five star hotels, race clubs, betting and other luxury services.

– Gold and rough diamonds have been allocated separate tax percentages of 3% and 0.25% respectively.

– Certain goods such as alcohol (for human consumption), consumption and sale of electricity, stamp duty and customs duty, and five petroleum products, namely, crude oil, natural gas, aviation fuel, diesel, and petrol have been excluded from GST for the initial years.

1. The GST council has revised the tax rates on 27 goods and 12 services with effect from 6 October 2017. Click here to read the revised list.

2. The GST council has revised the tax rates on 177 goods and services with effect from 15 November 2017.

3. The 25th GST Council met on 18 January 2018, where a third round of revisions was announced on 29 goods and 53 services, with effect from 25 January 2018.

How the transactions will change

Businesses will be impacted at both ends, i.e., at the inbound transactions such as imports (international business) and procurements (domestic), and at the outbound transactions, i.e., the sales. Here are some important transformations:

Place of Supply: Currently, many businesses operate on a state-wise warehousing model as transfers between inter-state warehouses are considered as stock transfers and are not liable to pay CST. Under GST, inter-state stock transfers between warehouses will also be subject to IGST at the “Place of Supply”. For example, a supplier of steel from Jharkhand to Orissa and Kerala, will need to pay IGST on the transfer of goods in Orissa and Kerala respectively. If there is a transfer of steel from the warehouse in Kerala to the warehouse in Orissa, IGST would still be applicable, but CST wouldn’t be payable on such a transaction. This change has been proposed to discourage suppliers from having multiple warehouses and adopt a single warehousing system.

Consideration of “Time of Supply Rules”: This factor determines when goods / services are to be supplied, and therefore, when the tax is to be paid (point of taxation). Under the GST, the Time of Supply for goods and services is the earlier of the following dates: (a) the date of issuing of invoice (or the last day by which invoice should have been issued) OR (b) the date of receipt of payment; whichever is earlier. For example, if the date of invoicing is May 20 and payment is received on July 1, the time of supply will be May 20. Which means that the  government wants to collect the tax at the earliest possible point in time, and businesses must plan their working capital keeping in mind these advanced payment timelines.

Provisions of Input Tax Credit: Input tax refers to the taxes that a manufacturer or service provider pays while buying the raw material or inputs. Under the GST, a business can reduce the tax it has paid on inputs from the taxes collected on outputs. In effect, businesses will be taxed only on the “value addition”. For example, if a manufacturer is paying Rs 300 on final product and has paid Rs 200 on inputs, he can claim input credit on Rs 200 and has a tax liability of only Rs 100. This facility will bring down the overall tax expenses of companies.

Lower exemption thresholds for Small Scale Industries: Currently, small scale industries can avail central excise threshold exemption of Rs. 1.5 crore. With the GST, this limit will be reduced to Rs. 20 lakh. As a result, a company that used to avail tax exemption of 1.5 crore can now avail only 20 lakh, leading to higher tax payments.   Benefits from higher registration threshold: Businesses with turnover of over 20 lakh (10 lakh for the North East) must mandatorily register for GST. Currently, the criteria for VAT is that businesses with turnover of over Rs 5 lakh (Rs 10 lakh for North East) must register for VAT. As a result a business that was in the Rs 5 lakh – Rs 20 lakh bracket is now exempt from indirect taxation.

These are some of the business-transactional implications of the GST. Organisations will have to design and implement extensive change management exercises to align GST with their desired business outcomes. Get more information about GST on our GST blog.

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Oct 24, 2018

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5 Reasons Why Making a BizResolution Can Help You Grow Your Business

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Having got off to a good start, a business typically aims to grow and explore new opportunities. To make this happen, businesses need to move in the right direction. This is especially true for a business in its early days when managing operations efficiently is a challenge, thereby taking precedence over matters of strategic importance such as goal-setting and business development. One way by which you can change gears from the routine rigmarole is making a #BizResolution. These are exactly like making New Year Resolutions, except that these will help you boost business growth in your enterprise.

A business resolution is like a promise or commitment you make to achieve specific objectives in the coming year. Since it involves your enterprise, the level of commitment to making it happen is high.

Here are 5 ways business resolutions can help drive growth in your business. Business resolutions can help:

Set realistic goals: While your company is being steered by a sound business plan, it is critical to break down broad business objectives into achievable goals. So, while your plan projects a specified growth rate, you need to identify smaller goals that will lead to this result. For instance, your #BizResolution could be to “improve relationship with suppliers,” which will have a positive effect on inventory, product availability, and therefore customer satisfaction and higher sales.

Drive business strategy: It is common for new entrepreneurs to get lost in the operational hassles and simply not have the bandwidth to focus on more value adding tasks such as digital marketing or human resources. The urgent matters take precedence over what’s important, and the business slows down for want of strategic inputs. In this case, a #BizResolution can pinpoint to strategic focus areas, thereby helping realign the business priorities for growth.

Upgrade skills: Running a successful business is a constant learning process, which involves learning from competition, adopting best practices, upgrading skills and so on. This is a must in today’s rapidly changing environment, which demands that companies constantly innovate. Yet, somewhere in this quest for efficiency, the learning element takes a backseat. Having a skillset-oriented business resolution can help foster a culture of continuous learning and skill upgradation.

Focus on expansion: A high-growth focus is what most investors look for before investing in a new business. To expand, you need capital for which enterprises usually need investors or lenders. Hence, you must assess the potential for new markets, new partnerships, complimentary product categories (upselling and cross-selling), new channels (online), and new customer segments. Making such growth-centric business resolutions will keep you firmly on the road to expansion and success.

Develop a niche product: A niche product builds on the premise that certain small market segments are typically underserved. Find your blue ocean strategy and explore a better chance to grow. Make a #BizResolution to invest time and effort into a promising, niche product, which allows you to differentiate your offerings and create an uncontested market space.

Business resolutions need not be yearlong commitments. Periodically assess your product or solution with respect to the industry environment and change tack—set new objectives or redraft your existing ones. The idea is to stay in tune with emerging opportunities and align your company with market needs to make the most of growth prospects.

Create your #BizResolution today and share it with us to stand a chance to win exclusive prizes such as: Exclusive tickets to a T20 cricket match in your city Amazon vouchers Click here to get started.

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Oct 24, 2018