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Govt likely to exempt PSBs from FBT on pension funds
January, 18th 2008
The government is examining a proposal to exempt public sector banks from fringe benefit tax (FBT) on their contribution to statutory pension funds. The banking industry believes that since the pension schemes are not voluntary, they should not attract FBT.

Banks are pitching for a blanket exemption even though they enjoy an exemption on contributions up to Rs 1 lakh annually towards an employees pension. In most cases, individual contributions do not breach the Rs 1-lakh limit.

Moreover, FBT is levied on superannuation funds that are provided in addition to provident fund. In the case of public sector banks, however, they were given a choice between pension funds and provident funds, where pension funds substituted PF for the employees who opted for pension in lieu of contributory PF in a bipartite settlement in 1993.

Except State Bank of India, no other bank provides all three benefits of PF, pension and gratuity. Thus, banks believe FBT should not be levied on pension funds, one of the two retirement benefits in addition to gratuity. It is understood that a voluntary contribution to a superannuation fund in addition to the provident fund is taxable.

Contributions to statutory funds are exempt to begin with. Since banks contribution to pension is not out of volition, banks should not be taxed. It is another issue that our contributions are well within the Rs 1-lakh category and are exempt anyway. However, keeping in mind future projections, we may breach the limit sooner than later, a banker said.

In public sector banks, the pension scheme is statutory in nature on account of a provision in Bank Employees Pension Regulation, 1995.

On the levy of FBT for contributions made by the employer to a superannuation fund, finance minister P Chidambaram had said the superannuation funds are essentially for the senior employees and are not statutory in nature.
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