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Chambers of commerce will not come under tax net
March, 11th 2008

Addressing members of the Bharat Chamber of Commerce and Merchants Chamber, besides captains of industry, at an interactive session on Direct Taxes: Policies and Prescriptions, here on Monday, Mr R. Prasad, Chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Union Ministry of Finance, clarified that activities of Chambers of Commerce will not be brought under the tax net, under the new proviso to Section 2 (15) in the Union Budget.

(As per the changes proposed in the Finance Bill with regard to direct tax provisions under Section 2(15) of the I-T Act, it is proposed that the concept of general public utility for a charitable purpose shall not apply if the job involved carrying on of any activity in the nature of trade, commerce or business.)

Mr Prasad, dispelling the fears of the chambers, clarified that the services rendered by the chambers of Commerce without any profit motive will not be brought under the tax net. He said the clarificatory circular will be issued by the Government soon. The amendment clause, according to him, was to prevent misuse, as all public utilities cannot be excused from tax liability. Let me clarifiy that only those who help promote business may be required to pay tax under this new provision, he said.

Clarifying that quoting of PAN numbers was now absolutely necessary; the CBDT Chairman said once the tax compliance levels improve, rates could be further watered down.

Asked to comment on the fate of the already finalised Direct Taxes Code Bill 2006, still waiting to be placed before Parliament, Mr Prasad said that after examining all the suggestions received, and clearance by the Cabinet, the Bill will have to go to a select committee of Parliament before being placed in the House.

Liabilities vary

On the draft instructions reportedly issued by the CBDT to AOs (Assessing Officers) to determine whether a person is a trader or an investor in stocks, as per the criteria laid out, and accordingly bring his income under a higher tax of 33 per cent, the CBDT Chief, while admitting that the issue was still not clear, said taxpayers too keep on changing their stance, making things difficult. He, however, stated that there was no hard and fast rule, as the tax liability may vary from case to case.

Retrospective changes

Pointing out that direct tax collections during 2007-08 have shown a growth of 41.8 per cent, he justified the retrospective amendments (as many as 12 this year, according to tax experts), stating that these rendered clarity to the provisions and also helped in reducing litigation. Pointing out that interpretation by courts was contrary to the Governments viewpoint, he said giving retrospective effect to certain provisions did not unsettle the law.

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