The Reserve Bank of India and financial sector bosses on Tuesday made a strong pitch for higher incentives for savings, including raising the tax benefit for investing money in fixed deposits and public provident fund (PPF) to Rs 2.5 lakh from Rs 1.5 lakh currently.
Sources said RBI deputy governor Urjit Patel kicked off the customary pre-budget consultation with finance minister Arun Jaitley with a suggestion to "significantly" increase savings, which was followed by demands to raise the cap by bankers as well as insurance companies.
"We need to increase the savings rate in the economy and take it back to 35% of GDP. For that, enhancing section 80C (of Income Tax Act) to Rs 2.5-3 lakh will be helpful," Yes Bank MD & CEO Rana Kapoor said. Bankers said the ceiling should be enhanced, especially at a time when real interest rates (net of inflation) had turned positive after several years.
Taking a cue from RBI's Patel, Life Insurance Corporation chairman SK Roy suggested that the government could impose sub-limits within the section 80C exemptions, said a source present in the meeting.
Under the current rules, the government allows deduction of up to Rs 1.5 lakh for investment in various savings instruments such as fixed deposits with a tenure of five years or more, provident fund, PPF and life insurance schemes.
The suggestion came amid recommendations from some private sector bankers that the government should lower the quantum of tax-free bonds that are issued, if not completed do away with them. They argued that the bonds were being bought by high net-worth individuals such as film stars and were not benefiting the common man. The bonds issued by certain institutions compete with bank deposits.
Good suggestion from the RBI as it is there are no qualified people in the NDA
Bankers also demanded tax should be deducted on interest of above Rs 50,000 as against the current Rs 10,000.
In addition, Kapoor said, there were suggestions on making the gold monetization scheme more attractive. A finance ministry statement said bankers also suggested that interest rate on small savings schemes such as PPF should be rationalized and linked to the yield on five-year government securities.
Banks as well as the RBI have been demanding the change to ensure that investors don't park funds in PPF and National Savings Scheme, which offer higher rates, and instead opt for fixed deposits with banks. Bankers say higher deposit rates don't allow them to lower lending rates, something that the government has been seeking.