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Tax data points to stress on India Inc
June, 16th 2011

The latest tax numbers emanating from Mumbai, which accounts for the largest chunk of direct tax collections, are indicating a sharp impact on company bottom lines as margins have come under pressure due to rising input and oil costs as well as interest rates.

The advance tax numbers for the top 100 companies in the Mumbai region went up by around 14%, chief commissioner P P Srivastava said. The growth rate is nearly half the level recorded in the previous quarter, and lower than the 25% rise estimated a year ago. In March top Indian companies had seen their advance tax payments rise almost 30%.

The moderation in the growth rate of advance tax in the first quarter is also in line with industrial slowdown seen in recent months. The Indian industry is already complaining of higher costs taking a toll on their profitability. In addition, higher interest rates are slowing down demand for cars and white goods.

Data available from Mumbai so far indicates that growth is lower that the budgeted rise of 21%. The government has estimated that advance tax would rise to Rs 3.6 lakh crore in 2011-12, compared to its revised estimates of Rs 2.96 crore in 2010-11. Revenue secretary Sunil Mitra has already flagged the prospect of the government missing its revenue collection target for the current financial year due to a slowdown.

Advance tax payments are often seen as an advance indicator of corporate profits and the overall economic health.

Companies and large tax payers are required to pay advance tax in four installments with the first one due on June 15, when assesses are required to pay 15% of their annual payment. Then, they have to pay 30% each by September 15 and December 15, while the remaining 25% is to be paid by March 15.

The advance tax data available so far shows that the financial sector, despite fears of higher loan defaults, is doing well. State Bank of India, which saw its profit crash 99% in the last quarter, is the largest taxpayer in the first quarter of the current financial year. Other banks and financial institutions ranging from HDFC (16% rise to Rs 250 crore) to HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and IDBI Bank (122% to Rs 180 crore) too have reported a healthy rise (see table).

The tech sector did well too with Infosys' advance tax payments rising over 33% to Rs 300 crore, while first installment payments by TCS nearly doubled to Rs 250 crore compared to Rs 128 crore a year ago.

For the auto sector, the first quarter seems to be a mixed bag as Mahindra & Mahindra (43% rise to Rs 90 crore) saw a payout surge while Tata Motors (under 5% to Rs 65 crore) and Bajaj Auto (14% to Rs 125 crore) witnessed a comparatively quieter quarter.

But there seemed to be no looking back for Hindustan Unilever as its advance tax payments went up 33% to Rs 100 crore.

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