Slowdown will not hit social sector spending: Finance Minister

Our Bureau September 6 | Updated on September 26, 2019 Published on September 06, 2019

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Tax collection targets for set with current scenario in mind, says Finance Minister

The Budgetary allocations and social sector spending will not be affected by the economic slowdown, said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday.

The government has initiated a consultation process with all sectors and is “hearing them out” so that it can take a “considered view”, she said.

The targets that have been given to various departments and the“Boards” (Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs; and Central Board of Direct Taxes) have been done with keeping in mind the economic scenario.

“In case challenges arise with regard to collection, we will look into it. However, it (a slowdown) will not affect social sector spending or the Budgetary spending,” Sitharaman said during a press meet here.

The Finance Minister was here to meet the tax officials, apprise them of technology upgrades and also talk to the various trade bodies and chambers of commerce.

The economy, at 5 per cent, has grown at its slowest pace in over six years in the June quarter (April to June) of this fiscal.

“We are looking at the challenges that the sectors are facing and will take a considered view. We will be taking a call on what solution or response that they want,” she said adding that the Centre was aware of its fiscal deficit targets.

Auto industry sops

Asked about sops and GST cuts for the auto sector, Sitaraman reiterated that the Centre has already “responded somewhat” to issues raised by the sector.

She maintained that “accelerated depreciation” and a clarification that the government was not pushing for electric vehicles at the cost of non-electric ones have already been done. Issues like implementation of BS-VI norms have also been taken care of.

The cumulative sales of the top six carmakers in the country dropped by over 29 per cent (year-on-year) in August 2019. Sales of medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, excluding buses, more than halved in August.

The auto industry has also been seeking a reduction in the GST rate from 28 per cent to 18 per cent.

The Finance Minister maintained that the call for GST reduction will be taken up by the GST Council and she alone cannot take a call on the matter.

“We have responded somewhat (to the auto sector). And GST reduction is a call that has to be taken by the Council. They will ponder and respond on it,” she said.

According to Sitharaman, the Centre will ensure a smoother tax collection process through use of technology and big data.

Tax notices will mandatorily have a docket identification number (DIN) and random scrutiny of assesses will happen. A random scrutiny means that for an assessee based in Kolkata, the tax scrutiniser could be someone neutral and based in Mysuru or Thiruvananthapuram.

Moreover, officials have been asked “not to over-reach”. “We are engaging with the tax officials to convey the message that they perform their duties and not over-reach.”

Published on September 06, 2019

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