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Budget 2014: India Inc to seek stimulus extension, less tax tumult
June, 06th 2014

India Inc, in its first pre-budget consultation meeting with the Narendra Modi government, would urge finance minister Arun Jaitley to rationalise tax rates on corporates coping with economic slowdown and raise thresholds for personal income tax payers in a bid to boost consumer sentiment dented by high inflation.

Jaitley is scheduled to meet representatives from 20 chambers of commerce and industry on Friday. ET spoke to top officials in three leading industry bodies, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ficci and Assocham to glean their key submissions to the new FM.

Terming an early implementation of the goods and service tax (GST) as a surefire means of reviving investor sentiment and putting the economy back on track, CII president Ajay Shriram said that "nothing can be better than a well-crafted GST" as a stimulus to the economy.

At the same time, CII is expected to push for an extension of the short-term stimulus package granted in the interim budget by previous finance minister P Chidambaram this February. The stimulus that involved reduction of excise duty on certain goods in the range of 2 per cent to 6 per cent till June 30, 2014, the industry would like to see continuing till March 2015.

Assocham president Rana Kapoor is expected to suggest that the government raise critical resources and aid fiscal consolidation by using a holding company to hold the Centre's stake in public sector banks and disinvesting the significant stakes in private firms like ITC, Larsen & Toubro and Axis Bank held by the government through the Specified Undertaking of the Unit Trust of India or SUUTI.

CII would also call for an aggressive approach to disinvestment, with a suggestion that the government stake in public sector banks be diluted to 51 per cent and subsidy expenditure be rationalised by at least 10 per cent to save about Rs 25,000 crore and improve India's fiscal deficit.

The industry chamber is also expected to reiterate its demand that investments over Rs 500 crore be considered by the Cabinet Committee on Investments set up by the previous government to expedite projects worth lakhs of crore that are held up for want of clearances.

The Manmohan Singh government had set a threshold ofRs 1,000 crore for an investment to be helped by the government and had rejected the demand to reduce the threshold first made in December 2013.

Ficci president Sidharth Birla is expected to tell Jaitley that the new government's first budget presents an opportunity to convince investors that India can offer a stable and consistent tax regime. Such an environment would need a significant shift from the current scenario where tax revenues are not keeping pace with targets and taxpayers are facing the wrath of aggressive revenue authorities looking to meet their targets.

CII is also likely to point out a major flaw in the stimulus package that the UPA had announced in February. "In the past, every time when the government changed the excise duty on vehicles, corresponding change had been made on the input rate to avoid mismatch. This had not been done in the stimulus package," said Shriram.

While excise duty on commercial vehicles has been reduced, excise on most of inputs used in manufacture of such vehicles continues to be at a basic rate of 12 per cent, resulting in an inverted excise structure.

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