With the upcoming elections and in the wake of the panel entrusted with the task of outlining measures to replace the existing Income-tax Act, it seems unlikely that any major SOPs or incentives will be introduced. However, one can expect some certain industry-specific announcements:
Funds industry: Extension of the tax pass-through status to Category-III Alternate Investment Funds (AIF) and tax holiday provisions for AIFs set up in International Financial Services Centres to further boost the AIF industry.
Capital markets: Last year, the tax exemption on long-term capital gains (LTG), which was earlier available on market sale of listed equity shares, was withdrawn and respite was given for investments made prior to January 31, 2018, by allowing taxpayers to substitute the fair market value of such shares on January 31, 2018 as cost base subject to conditions. However, clarity on whether the same is available for shares acquired pursuant to exempt transfers such as acquisition pursuant to a demerger/merger/gift would be helpful.
Reduced corporate taxes and minimum alternate tax (MAT): The industry expects a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent for companies and LLPs (increasingly gaining traction) along with a reduction in the present MAT rate, i.e. 18.5 per cent (which is essentially tax payable by corporates on the adjusted book profits and in certain cases payable by non-corporates on income).
Indirect transfer of Indian assets: Transfer of assets held directly or indirectly by a foreign company pursuant to a merger/demerger to another foreign company is not subject to tax in India, subject to certain conditions. At present, there is no relief to shareholders of the transferor company from indirect transfer tax and an exemption in this regard is expected.
Start-ups: In order to claim a tax exemption, start-up entities have to obtain a certificate from the Inter-Ministerial Board of Certification, often viewed as a regulatory hurdle. Increased objectivity in the process would boost the Startup India initiative.