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Tax rejig for gems sector on anvil
November, 17th 2006
The next Budget is likely to see significant changes in the duty structure for the gems and jewellery sector. An expert group set up by the finance ministry under former revenue secretary MR Sivaraman may recommend imposition of direct tax on the basis of turnover. 
The groups recommendation, expected to be used for reworking the tax structure, will be submitted to the government soon. 
Senior officials said even the commerce ministry, which had provided inputs to the group, had made a strong case for reducing taxes to make the country a gems and jewellery hub. Last year, the ministry had suggested imposition of a presumptive tax instead of income tax on the sector. 
Under the new regime, tax will be paid on the basis of the expected turnover. The ministry, in its recommendations, had said that the presumptive tax regime would result in higher tax collections, expand the tax base and lower the cost of tax administration. 
The commerce department had recently compared the tax regime in India with Thailand, a gems and jewellery hub. The findings of the study have also been submitted to the expert group. 
The study noted that cut and polished coloured gemstones attract Customs duty of around 22 per cent in India and zero duty in Thailand. Similarly, gold in bars and biscuits attracts a Customs duty of Rs 102 per ten grams compared with zero per cent in Thailand. 
Silver in bars and biscuits in India attracts an import duty of Rs 510 per kg compared with zero duty in Thailand. The sector also attracts 12.5 per cent service tax, octroi of 2-4 per cent and 4 per cent central sales tax (CST). These taxes are nil in Thailand. 
The study has also pointed out that Thailand gives exemption from corporation tax for five to eight years while in India, the income, net of exemptions and deductions, is subject to a tax of 33.66 per cent. 
In addition to the tax break, Thailand allows an eight-year tax holiday for re-location of existing gems and jewellery units inside the gemopolis. 
Export of gems and jewellery is a significant part of Indias merchandise trade. During 2005-06, India exported gems and jewellery worth $ 15.54 billion. 
However, there has been a marginal decline in exports this fiscal. According to provisional trade data for April-July 2006-07, exports declined to $ 4.76 billion from $ 4.77 billion in the same period last year.
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