* Business

Easing annual return filing procedure and rationalising rates on lottery may also be on the agenda at today’s meeting

Tough times: There seems to be no clarity if the slump in the automobile sector is due to high taxes. B. VELANKANNI RAJ

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council is likely to discuss the viability of a tax rate cut for the automobile sector, easing the annual return filing procedure for small businesses and possibly rationalise the two different rates on lotteries at its 37th meeting to be held in Goa on Friday, according to tax analysts.

“The auto industry is demanding a GST rate cut from 28% to 18%,” said Ankit Agarwal, MD, Alankit Ltd.

Lower levy on FMCG

“The concerns related to the automobile industry will be taken up in the upcoming Council meeting. The Council may also lower levies on items such as biscuits,” he said. There is, however, no consensus on whether the Council will actually reduce the GST rates on automobiles since it is not clear that the downturn in the industry is due to high rates of tax.

“While the auto industry is pushing for a GST rate-cut at the meeting, the chances of the Council considering the same do not seem very likely as there are several factors contributing to the slump in auto sales, besides GST,” said Archit Gupta, founder and CEO, ClearTax.

“The declining GST revenue collections also do not provide much hope at the moment, either, for rate cuts in this sector. Further, the view is that a rate cut given to boost one particular sector will lead to other sectors also demanding the same treatment,” said Mr. Gupta.

The other major decision that is likely to be taken is exempting small business from filing the GSTR-9 annual return forms.

These forms have come under much criticism for being too complex and asking for data that businesses, especially smaller ones, cannot furnish.

“The Council may exempt small taxpayers with annual turnover up to ₹2 crore or up to ₹5 crore from filing annual returns for a year or so,” Mr. Agarwal said. “The proposed step would ease compliance burden and subsequently help tax authorities focus on big assesses.”

“The industry is also hopeful that the government would provide the road map and corresponding timelines with regard to implementation of the new GST returns and e-invoicing which should further ease the compliance under the GST regime,” Mahesh Jaising, partner, Deloitte India, said.

Mr. Gupta, however, said the government should instead focus on easing the annual return filing procedure and forms rather than doing away with them.

GSTR-9 complexities

“We strongly feel the complexities of filing form GSTR-9 should be reviewed,” Mr. Gupta said. “The filing deadline has been extended for the fourth time. We are expecting the Council to consider a simplified version of the form which will rationalise several parts of this annual return.”

The other aspects that could come up for discussion may be distribution of taxes between the Centre and the States, and also the possibility of combining the two existing rates of 28% and 12% for lotteries into a single rate.

“The GST Council will interact with the Finance Commission during the September 20 meeting and will suggest the formula for the distribution of taxes between the Centre and the States for a five-year period starting April 1, 2020,” Mr. Agarwal said.

Little scope for fiscal expansion, recent oil price rise will not impact inflation: Das

Shaktikanta Das

With consumer price inflation projected below 4% over the next one year, there is room for further lowering of interest rates, Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das said on Thursday.

“Today, when we see that the price stability is maintained, and inflation is much below 4%, and is expected to be so in the next 12 months’ horizon, there’s room for a rate cut, especially when growth has slowed down,” Mr. Das said at the Bloomberg India Economic Forum.

The central bank reduced the repo rate by 110 bps during February and August to boost economic growth. The GDP growth for the first quarter of the current financial year dropped to a 25- quarter low of 5%. The repo rate is currently at 5.4% and there is an expectation that RBI will further lower the interest rate in the next policy review scheduled in the first week of October.

The central bank has a mandate to keep inflation at 4%, within a band of +/- 2%.

The RBI Governor said there was little scope for fiscal expansion by the government. There has been demand from the industry for an expansionary fiscal policy to support growth, which would mean missing the 3.3% fiscal deficit target for 2019-20.

Observing that the government had remained prudent on the fiscal side, he said, “I think government’s fiscal space is itself very limited. The fiscal deficit is at 3.3%. There is little space for fiscal expansion.”

On the external sector, Mr. Das said the outlook was one of cautious optimism, albeit with some downside risks accentuated at this juncture.

“Volatile international crude prices also continue to pose potential risks to the viability of the current account balance through trade and remittances channels,” he said. On the recent spurt in domestic fuel prices following a rise in crude oil prices after the drone attack on Saudi oil plants, Mr. Das said so far the quantum of price rise would not impact inflation in a significant way.

Mr. Das said banks had to take larger haircuts in cases where NBFCs were facing governance issues.

“The resolution process will have to be market linked and banks and other lenders will have a major role to play. NBFCs, where there are major governance issues, there, (the banks) need to take a larger haircut. There are business failures but there is also an element of administrative or governance lapses. So banks will have to take a balanced call,” he said.

BharatNet in T.N., Telangana among approved projects

Approval was given to set up 1,917 mobile towers at uncovered villages in the northeast. S. RAMESHKURUP

The Digital Communication Commission, the highest decision making body in the Department of Telecom, on Thursday approved multiple projects worth over ₹8,500 crore for setting up mobile towers and laying of optical fibre, with an aim to provide improved connectivity.

The commission also approved a special scheme to cover close to 12,000 uncovered villages in aspirational districts, a senior official said on Thursday.

The approved infra projects include laying of BharatNet fibre in Tamil Nadu and Telangana, at an estimated cost of ₹1,815 crore and ₹2,065 crore, respectively. Additionally, approval was given for setting up 1,917 mobile towers for uncovered villages in the North East. “4G connectivity has been approved for uncovered villages in North East. This includes 2,215 villages in Arunachal and 763 villages in two districts of Assam. This also includes highway. The total cost estimates is ₹2,536 crore,” DCC Chairman and Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash said.

For Meghalaya, the commission has approved ₹2,132 crore for 1,593 mobile towers. These proposals will be now sent to the Cabinet for approval. The Commission also approved ‘in-building access’ by telecom service providers, in which they will be allowed to share their infrastructure. “We will request the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to issue suitable guidelines to owners or residential welfare associations to provide access to all TSPs in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner,” he said.

Company to launch first product based on ‘Ziptron’ in the fourth quarter of current fiscal

Space for both: ICE vehicles and EVs will co-exist for the next decade, says Guenter Butschek (right). special arrangement

Tata Motors has unveiled a an electric vehicle (EV) technology named ‘Ziptron’ that will power its electric cars.

Ziptron, the EV power train technology, can be deployed on any platform of Tata Motors to produce sustainable and durable e-mobility solutions, which will be specifically designed for Indian conditions.

Successful tests

The first product using this technology will be launched in the fourth quarter of this financial year. Extensive tests conducted over one million km has been successful, top executives said.

The company is yet to disclose whether the first product, based on the new technology, would be a sport utility vehicle or a passenger car. The company said that the Ziptron EV power train technology, developed by a team of 350 Tata Motors engineers over four years, will be a “building block towards Tata Motors’ consistent striving for commonality, to drive economies of scale and to make new technologies affordable for Indian consumers.”

Addresses all concerns

The technology addresses ‘all concerns’ for an EV and comes with an efficient high-voltage system (over 300 volts), high performance, long range of 250 km per charge, fast-charging capability, battery with an eight-year warranty and adherence to IP67 standard which is the best dust and water-proof battery system in the industry, according to the company.

Executives said that Ziptron technology comprised a highly efficient permanent magnet AC motor providing ‘superior performance on demand’. It also utilises smart, regenerative braking to charge the battery while on the drive.

Guenter Butschek, CEO and MD, Tata Motors, said, “Our state-of-art technology brand Ziptron has been designed in-house while utilising our global engineering network. At the heart of our future EV line-up, this technology will deliver a thrilling driving experience to our customers aspiring to go green.” He added, “Being an Indian company, we want to lead the new wave of electrification in the country. Both ICE vehicles and EVs will co-exist for the next decade or beyond. We are working to bring the EV into the mainstream.”

Currently, EVs are hardly any match to vehicles with internal combustion engines. Out of the 3.3 million passenger vehicles sold in 2018, the contribution of EVs was only 2,027 units.

With the Ziptron technology, Tata Motors said it was hoping to usher in a new wave of e-mobility in India and accelerate faster adoption of EVs.

It will focus on solving problems in healthcare, agriculture

Caesar Sengupta

U.S.-headquartered Google on Thursday announced the setting up of a research lab in Bengaluru that will work on advancing artificial intelligence-related research with an aim to solve problems in sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and education.

“... we announced Google Research India — a new AI research team in Bangalore that will focus on advancing computer science and applying AI research to solve big problems in healthcare, agriculture, education and more,” Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google, tweeted.

Caesar Sengupta, vice-president, Next Billion Users Initiative and Payments at Google, added that this team would focus on advancing fundamental computer science and AI research by building a strong team and partnering with the research community across the country.

The company said it will also be applying this research to tackle problems in fields such as healthcare, agriculture, and education.

The new lab will be a part of and support Google’s global network of researchers.

“We’re also exploring the potential for partnering with India’s scientific research community and academic institutions to help train top talent and support collaborative programmes, tools and resources,” Jay Yagnik, vice-president and Google Fellow, Google AI, said.

Google Pay

The technology giant announced a host of additions to its UPI-powered digital payments app Google Pay which, the company said, had grown more than three times in the last 12 months to 67 million monthly active users, driving transactions worth over $110 billion on an annualised basis.

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