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Why a new additional tax on dividend income may not hit promoters much
March, 04th 2016

The additional 10% tax on dividend income announced in the Budget would not pinch many wealthy promoter groups after all. Promoters of several blue chips hold only a small stake in their individual capacity , through HUFs (Hindu undivided families) and partnership firms controlled by them, which come under the new tax.

For instance, 17.39% of promoter stake in IT major Wipro is owned by the Azim Premji trust. The company has paid a dividend of Rs 12 per share so far in 2015-16, earning the trust about Rs 516 crore in dividend income.

Trusts and holding companies would not attract the proposed additional tax on dividend, experts said. If Wipro maintains the payout at the same level in 2016-17, the dividend that the trust receives would still remain tax-free.

Similarly , about 43% of promoter holding in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone is also held in a family trust. An employee welfare fund and trusts own 14.17% in automobiles major Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M).This is more than half of the promoter holding in M&M.

Tata Sons, which is the holding company of most listed companies in the Tata Group, would be exempt from the new tax on dividend, the experts said. Tata Sons has earned nearly Rs 2,382 crore in dividend from IT behemoth Tata Consultancy Services alone so far in 2015-16. Tata Sons has a 73.26% stake in TCS.

The Budget said that "tax at the rate of 10% of gross amount of dividend will be payable by the recipients, that is, individuals, HUFs and firms receiving dividend in excess of (Rs) 10 lakh per annum". K S Ravichandran, founder of company secretaries firm KSR & Co, said, "Trusts (in companies) have been created for the purpose of family settlements and would be outside the purview of the additional dividend tax."

The rule is, however, open for interpretation and could result in litigation, tax experts said. For instance, courts had ruled in the past that taxes can be imposed on individuals in trusts where the share of the beneficiaries is fixed, experts said.

The promoter holding in Reliance Industries is held mostly through limited liability partnerships (LLPs), which experts said would attract the new 10% levy. "The LLP (limited liability partnership) holding structure has been used by some promoters. So, they could be impacted by the additional burden," said Rajesh H Gandhi, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP. Reliance's `Petroleum Trust' holds 3.84% in the company , which would be exempt from tax.

The government has not removed or reduced the dividend distribution tax ( DDT) borne by companies paying the dividend, which stands at 20%.

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