Impact of the Union Budget 2018 on Individuals

The Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, announced the Union Budget 2018 on 1st February 2018 with components possessing the potential to have a transformational influence on various sectors of the economy. The current Indian economy has reached US$ 2.5 Trillion and is on its way to becoming the 5th largest in the world. GDP is projected at 7.4 % while the number of taxpayers has increased from 6.47 crores to 8.27 crores and a direct tax revenue growth rate of 18.7% has been achieved as of January 15th. The Union Budget is poised to leverage this upward trajectory and provide the impetus for further development at a macro and micro level. Many of the provisions in the Budget directly impact the daily life of a common man. This blog intends to dwell upon these provisions.

Health, Housing and Employment Receives a Major Boost

NHPS (National Health Protection Scheme) dubbed as the world’s largest government-funded healthcare program will be extended to provide up to ₹5 lakh towards hospitalisation for 10 crore families and ultimately 50 crore actual beneficiaries from underprivileged backgrounds.

Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) has been announced to ensure housing for all by 2022. Under this program, 51 lakh houses in 2017-18 and 2018-19 each will be constructed in rural areas with 37 lakh houses in urban areas.

₹40,000 crores worth of concessions were announced for senior citizens. The annual exemption limit on interest income from fixed and recurring deposit schemes including small savings instruments has been increased from ₹10,000 to ₹50,000 in addition to increasing the ceiling for Section 80D from ₹30,000 to ₹50,000.

To facilitate employment generation, Government will contribute 12% of wages to EPF for 3 years. The Finance Ministry has also reduced EPF deduction to 8% for women employees thus significantly increasing their take-home salary while maintaining employer contribution at 12%.

A Huge Fillip to Travel and Transportation – Growth and Modernisation

Travel and transportation received a huge fillip across roads, railways and civil aviation. ₹1,48,528 crores have been reserved for boosting railway network capacity and gauge conversion. Over 4000 km will be electrified in addition to redeveloping over 600 major railway stations and progressively equipping all stations and trains with Wi-Fi and CCTV. ₹17,000 crores have also been allotted for augmenting Bangalore’s suburban railway network. The Government will quintuple the number of airports to 124 and connect hitherto unserved 56 airports and 36 heliports under UDAN, the regional connectivity program.  Around 9000 km of highways will be completed by the end of FY 2017-18 and over 35,000 km of interior roads will be completed in Phase 1.

Digital India – Integrated Education and Research – Major Focus

Under the massive ₹3,073 crore Digital India Program, over 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots will be set up to provide broadband access to 5 crore rural citizens. This opens up an avenue for individuals in rural India to access formal finance from digital lenders via the internet. New centres of excellence in the areas of AI, Big Data, Quantum communication and Internet of Things (IoT) will be established to boost indigenous intellectual capital in these crucial areas. An additional ₹14,500 crores have been earmarked for strengthening telecom infrastructure including BharatNet. To harness emerging technologies, particularly 5G, an indigenous Test Bed at IIT, Chennai will receive ₹135 crores.

The Government has launched a new program RISE (Revitalization of Infrastructure and Systems in Education) funded by a non-banking financing agency HEFA (Higher Education Financing Agency) with ₹1 lakh crore. In higher education, under the Prime Minister’s Research Fellow Scheme, 1000 B.Tech students will be identified and facilitated to complete PhD at India’s prestigious institutes.  Up to 24 new medical colleges are to be started and upgrade of several existing colleges was announced to ensure at least one Government College for each state in India. Two new schools of planning and architecture will also be set up in addition to 18 more IIT/NIITs.

Personal Tax

On the personal income tax front, there are no new changes in income tax slabs or structure.  However, a standard deduction of ₹ 40,000 will be introduced in lieu of transport and medical allowances while a higher allowance will be allowed for disabled individuals. From April 1, 2018, long-term capital gains of more than ₹ 1 Lakh will be taxed at 10% though gains until January 31, 2018, and will be grandfathered. Dividends from equity Mutual Funds will now attract DDT to perhaps discourage investors investing in Equity funds primarily for dividends. In an effort to promote gold as an attractive asset class, the existing Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS) will be made more investor-friendly and a network of regulated gold exchanges will be set up.

Balanced Budget

Though the budget was projected as agriculture-oriented and farmer-friendly, it is balanced and well-intentioned. Huge boost to expanding and upgrading transportation infrastructure especially the railways and supporting underprivileged with healthcare, housing and employment are the cornerstones of this Union Budget.  Substantial measures in the areas of digital economy and education pave the way towards India becoming an economic superpower.

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How to Determine Your Working Capital Needs

The availability of working capital is probably the most critical aspect of running a business smoothly and successfully. Also known as the current capital, working capital basically refers to the cash available with an organization for managing its daily operations and is calculated by simply deducting the current liabilities of a business from its current assets.

Assets that can be easily converted into cash within a year or a business cycle are termed as current assets and include cash, accounts receivables, inventories and short-term prepaid expenses. Similarly, current liabilities are the ones that a business needs to pay off within a year or one business cycle and includes accounts payable, accrued liabilities, accrued income taxes and dividends payable.

If current assets are greater than current liabilities, the business has a positive working capital situation or extra cash to meet unexpected expenses. Conversely, if the current liabilities are more than the current assets, the business is said to have negative working capital and needs to take working capital business loans.

Adequate cash availability also allows a business to take care of newer opportunities that require quick infusion of funds. However, not all businesses have access to adequate funds to carry out their operations smoothly and often need working capital loans.

Working Capital: Need and Importance

Every business needs to maintain some working capital to continue its operations smoothly. The amount of liquid funds available with a business is a measure of its ability to meet its short-term obligations. It is also a reflection of a company’s operational efficiency. Here are some reasons why working capital is essential:

Smooth Running of Business: Funds are needed for the smooth working of day-to-day operations and spending on the purchase of raw materials, overhead expenses and payment of wages and salaries. Working capital enables an uninterrupted flow of production or provision of services.

Goodwill: Sufficient cash with a business means it is capable of making prompt and timely payments, which in turn enhances its goodwill.

Easy Loans: Banks and financial institutions prefer to lend to organizations with adequate working capital.

Ability to Deal with Unexpected Expenses: Adequate availability of funds prepares a business to meet any unexpected expenses or situations.

Working capital is often used to judge the financial health of a business. A positive working capital situation indicates that a business is capable of paying off all its short-term debts, operating expenses and salaries with some extra amount remaining for reinvestment. In contrast, negative working capital is a cause for concern. It hints that the business may not be able to pay off its creditors.

Need for Working Capital Finance

Many businesses do not have sufficient cash in hand or liquid assets like money in the current account to meet their daily operational expenses. This is where working capital finance comes to their rescue. Small retailers or merchants typically require capital to fund seasonal inventory buildup. Also, businesses that do not have stable revenues through the year may still need to maintain a specific amount of inventory to fulfill any sudden increase in demand for their products. Such units often require a working capital loan to pay wages or meet other expenses during lean periods or when they are servicing an order, and the receivables would become due only after order fulfilment.

A working capital business loan is a short-term finance option that is generally repaid in the period when sales are high and the company has surplus cash. A major benefit of such credit is that its terms is short, which allows a business to maintain full control of its operations. Such loans need to be sanctioned quickly, without a lengthy approval process. Working capital funding can be secured or unsecured, depending on the financial product or lender.

Determining Your Working Capital Needs

The proper assessment of working capital needs is an important part of efficient financial planning. It allows a business to plan well and arrange the necessary funds on time to ensure smooth functioning of daily operations. The amount of current or working capital required by a business may vary. It is dependent on the operating cycle, or the amount needed to pay suppliers, the amount of inventory held and the time taken to collect cash from customers. Also, this may change with changes in demand for its products and services.

The working capital requirements of a business can be calculated by subtracting the accounts payable from the sum of the inventories and accounts receivables. Businesses need to fill the working capital gap by using internally generated profits or external borrowings or a combination of the two.

In case of new units or startups, working capital refers to the amount of money to be borrowed to keep operations going until the business starts generating adequate revenues to cover its operational expenses. Calculating the amount required to carry on business in the initial few months when there are no or very little revenues challenging and often leads to businesses borrowing too much or too little. A business should look towards raising working capital loans that have a prepayment option, or the option to repay the loan before the term is over.

Raising Working Capital Business Loans

Financial institutions use two ratios – the current ratio and the quick ratio – to measure the financial health or liquidity of a business. The current ratio is obtained by dividing the value of current assets by the value of current liabilities. A ratio above one means the current assets are more than liabilities, which is viewed positively. The quick ratio measures the proportion of short term liquidity (current assets minus inventory) to the current liabilities of a business. It gives a good idea of the company’s ability to meet short-term expenses quickly.

Working capital business loans are granted after assessing a company’s liquidity and working capital needs.

Oct 24, 2018

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How will the GST Impact Financial Services Sector in India?

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has been the biggest tax reform in India since 1947. Analysts also expect that it will have a huge impact on various sectors of the Indian economy, especially the service sector. Of the segment comprising banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), the fund-related, fee-based and insurance services will witness significant impact as a result of GST implementation and will see shifts from the way they had been operating earlier.

What is really implied by financial services?

The term ‘financial services’ has not been specifically defined by the GST law. However, to understand the implications of this tax on the financial services sector, we need to consider the supply of goods and services that involve the extension of credit support. These services include but are not limited to:

– Loans
– Lease
– Hire purchase
– Conditional sales
– Securitisation or assignment of receivables
– Acquisition or sale of shares and securities

The compliance towards GST can take some effort in the above fields because of the nature of operations conducted by banks and NBFCs concerning credit products, lease transactions, hire purchase, actionable claims and other funds and non-funds-based services.

The GST rate on banking services and services provided by the NBFCs has been raised from 15% to 18% with the execution of this reform from July 01, 2017 onwards. The GST impact on financial services may further be classified into the following sub-sections:

1. Network of branches to be registered separately

Before the implementation of GST, a bank or NBFC with operations spread across India could discharge its compliance on service tax through one ‘centralised’ registration. After GST regulation, these institutions will be required to get a separate tax registration for each of the states they work in.

As a destination-based tax, GST has a multi-stage collection system. In such a mechanism, the tax is collected at each stage and the credit of tax that was paid at the last stage is available as a set off at the subsequent stage of the transaction. This transfers the tax incidence to different entities more evenly, and helps the industry through improved cash flows and better working capital management.

2. Leveraged and de-leveraged Input Tax Credit 

Earlier, banks and NBFCs had been majorly opting for the reversal of 50% of the Central Value Added Tax (CENVAT) credit that they avail against the inputs and input services, while the CENVAT credit on the capital goods was given without any reversal conditions. Under GST, the 50% of the CENVAT credit that was availed for inputs, input services and capital goods has been reversed. This leaves banks and NBFCs with a decreased credit of 50% on capital goods, and in turn raises the cost of capital.

However, this can be counterbalanced by the advantages posed by operating one’s business in the new taxation scenario. A unified domestic market can help with more opportunities for expansion and reduced production costs enhancing one’s profitability.

3. Evaluation and adjudication 

The impact of GST on banking services and NBFCs will also be felt in terms of evaluation procedures. Service tax was assessed by the particular regulators in the state where a branch is registered. In addition, every registered branch of the concerned bank or NBFC had to validate its position for the chargeability in the respective state and provide a reason for utilising the input tax credit in various states.

The GST assessment will involve more than one assessing authority, and each of them may have a different judgement for the same underlying issue. Although such contradictions can prolong the decision-making process for the financial institutions, the adverse effects of evaluation by one authority can be offset through decisions made by another assessor.

Impact of GST on banking sector – General services 

Banks in India have been levying service tax on most transactions enabled by their systems. These include but are not limited to digital fund transfers, issuance of ATM cards and chequebooks, and ATM withdrawals beyond a specific limit. With GST on financial services, these services will be taxed at the rate of 18% instead of the 15% service tax rate that was being charged earlier. For example, if you withdraw money from an ATM other than your bank’s ATM after exceeding the “free transaction limit”, you are typically charged Rs 20 plus a service tax, which comes to around Rs 23. With the imposition of GST, this amount will go up to Rs 23.60.

However, deeper analysis reveals that such an increase in cost should not be considered a negative GST impact on financial services sector. In the long run, banks will be able to transfer the advantage of input tax credit – enabled under GST – to the customers. Furthermore, services like fixed deposits (FDs) and other bank account deposits that were outside the circle of service tax will continue to remain outside the GST ambit.

A major advantage of GST on financial services and other sectors is that it is a transparent tax and has reduced the number of indirect taxes. It integrates different taxes and ensures that the tax burden is fairly divided between different entities involved in the system. In addition, GST is essentially technology based. The advanced software systems used in its calculation and filing works will reduce the chances of manual errors and will lead to better decision making.

Capital Float too experiences the effect of GST on banking and NBFCs. We find ourselves in the 18% tax bracket, and we maintain our statutory lending policies including low-interest rates and quick disbursement of funds. Taking into account the GST impact on financial services sector, Capital Float will continue to provide the best credit solutions to its clients, customized to adapt to the changes brought by GST on SMEs in various sectors.

Oct 24, 2018

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RBI Governor Talks SME, Receivables Finance

Since his appointment last year, Raghuram Rajan has been making the headlines for all the right reasons. But beyond his interventions in currency markets and the macroeconomy, a steady stream of pronouncements from the RBI Governor on potential priority sector reforms should give the SME sector in India much to cheer about.

In his inaugural address, Rajan specifically highlighted the importance of SME finance in spurring growth across the broader economy:

As the central bank of a developing country, we have additional tools to generate growth – we can accelerate financial development and inclusion. Rural areas, especially our villages, as well as small and medium industries across the country, have been important engines of growth even as large company growth has slowed

He went on to endorse receivables financing as a key policy tool to unlock timely credit to SMEs and address the massive working capital gap in the sector today:

For small and medium firms, we intend to facilitate Electronic Bill Factoring Exchanges, whereby MSME bills against large companies can be accepted electronically and auctioned so that MSMEs are paid promptly. This was a proposal in the report of my Committee on Financial Sector reforms in 2008, and I intend to see it carried out.

On a cautionary note, it is worth noting that this is not the first formal RBI pronouncement in recent times advocating factoring or receivables-based financing as a financial inclusion tool for the SME sector. In fact, the RBI has signaled a steady commitment in recent times to SME credit growth, but its policy directives have frequently not translated into real priorities for public and private sector banks operating on the ground.

In 2013, IFMR reported that 16 out of 26 public sector banks had failed to meet their priority-sector lending (PSL) targets. Half the private sector banks also did not reach their targets, bringing the total shortfall in priority-sector lending in 2013 to USD 28 billion.

Despite these hiccups, Mr. Rajan’s strong words and visible proactivity since coming into office suggest that the RBI may embarking on a fresh chapter of promoting innovation to further financial inclusion for priority sectors. If recent sentiment across capital markets is any indication to go by, the consensus is that this Governor means business. This is good news for innovators trying to bring new and disruptive business models to sectors that have traditionally been starved for credit. But for entrepreneurs in these sectors, it could mean something more transformative – unprecedented access to an entirely new set of institutions, tools, and financial products more finely attuned to serving their business requirements and financing needs.

(Image credit: Business Today Aug 12, 2013)

Oct 24, 2018