Though the past year brought economic hardship with significant implications for the retail sector, there seems to be a silver lining for India. In the Annual AT Kearney Global Retail Development Index (GRDI), which ranks 30 emerging countries on a 100-point scale (where the higher the ranking, the greater are the opportunities offered by the country), India reclaims the top spot, which was last held in 2007, informs Amarpal S. Chadha, a senior tax professional with Ernst & Young.
Given the above potential provided by the Indian economy, the industry is all geared to look at what the Finance Minister has to offer to the different industry segments in this years Budget, he adds, during a recent email interaction with Business Line.
Before chalking down any demands for the retail sector, it is important to have a look at the areas where retail is benefiting the economy. There are some big business houses that have ventured into organised retailing, and have the potential to generate large-scale employment in India.
Organised retail accounts for approximately 5 per cent of the total retail business in India, Chadha reminds. Thus, there is a tremendous scope for the retail sector to contribute to the Government in terms of taxes and serving the economy by generating employment opportunities, improving supply chain management, reducing wastage, and offering goods to consumers at discounted prices.
At some point or the other, most of the sectors have been provided some tax benefits or concessions, be it the hotel industry, shipping, banking or manufacturing, he notes. All these sectors have reaped the benefits of tax concessions and have also witnessed growth in terms of the number of players, giving a boost to the overall economy. If the Government can look at extending some tax benefits to the retail sector, it will go a long way in providing the necessary boost to the industry. The Government should acknowledge the growth potential, which this sector has, and give it an industry status.
Excerpts from the interview.
It is of common knowledge that retail works on paper-thin margins. If the Government can cut down the corporate tax rates and give some concessions in the fringe benefit tax (FBT) rates, it will help retail in improving its cash flows and funding its operations.
Sales promotion forms a major chunk of expenses for retail. Though the legislation exempts several means of advertisement from the scope of sales promotion, it would be beneficial if the Government provides an exemption of sales promotion expenses from the FBT levy.
Benefits of Section 72A of the I-T Act, which deals with carry forward and set off of accumulated losses and unabsorbed depreciation allowance in the case of amalgamation or demerger, should be extended to consolidations in the retail sector.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail has been the most-talked about area in the last few months. FDI in multi-brand retail is disallowed. However, the Government recently came up with Press Notes 2, 3 and 4 of 2009, which prima facie gave an indication that foreign investment in multi-brand retail is allowable, if multi-brand retail is carried out by a subsidiary of an investing company, which is owned and controlled in India.
As the prima facie reading of the above Press Notes seems to create misgivings in the industry, it is of utmost importance for the Government to clear its viewpoint in relation to FDI in multi-brand retail by issuing a specific clarification.
On service tax.
The economic downturn has reduced the price of real estate, and this has benefited the retail sector. However, the cost which is causing inefficiency in retail is the levy of service tax on the renting of immovable property, which should be abolished as there is no service element involved when an immovable property is let out.
Recently, the Delhi High Court ruled that service tax is not intended to be levied on the renting of immovable property. However, the Revenue has filed a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court against this ruling. Accordingly, the aforesaid issue remains open till the constitutional validity of such a levy is finally decided upon by the Supreme Court.
The process of refund of Special Additional Duty (SAD) of customs allowed to importers on goods meant for resale in India poses a lot of administrative difficulty for the taxpayers. The Government should either totally exempt SAD or simplify the procedure associated with the refund of claim. This would help taxpayers reap the benefit as envisaged by the Government.
On related measures.
Reduction in the individual personal tax rates will help in increasing the purchasing power of consumers, boost consumption, and thereby help the retail sector in improving its profitability. It will also have an indirect impact on improving the manufacturing sector.