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New look finance ministry team to frame contours of Budget 2018
August, 16th 2017

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's fifth Union Budget will sport a different look, starting with a lighter `Part B’ with fewer indirect tax changes because of GST

A new team of experts and top bureaucrats will likely finalise Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's fifth Union Budget that will sport a different look, starting with a lighter `Part B’ with fewer indirect tax changes because of GST and an expected change in the financial year.

The current financial year witnessed key entries and exits into the North Block, starting from a new Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, who will spearhead the budget making process for 2018-19. Chandra replaced Shaktikanta Das, who retired in May.

Similarly, two key finance ministry officials, Department of Financial Services Secretary Anjuly Chib Duggal and Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa will retire in August and October, respectively, unless they get an extension.

The year also saw a new Central Board of Customs and Excise (CBEC) Chief Vanaja N Sarna, who assumed office in April, replacing the incumbent Najib Shah, at a time when the apex policy making body for indirect taxes was in its final lap to finalise rules and formulate rate under the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia and Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) Neeraj Kumar Gupta would be the constants in the budget-making process.

All eyes are also on whether the government will extend Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian's three-year term, which gets over in October 2017. The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, the government’s go-to policy think tank, will also have new a new person at the helm.

Also read: Arvind Panagariya resigns as NITI Aayog Vice Chairman to return to teaching

Rajiv Kumar, a leading economist and former secretary general of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), will take over as the new NITI Aayog Vice Chairman. He will replace Arvind Panagariya plans to get back to academia from September, after resigning from the post earlier this month.

Union Budget 2018-19 is especially crucial as the Narendra Modi-led government plans to change the financial year to January-December from April-March. The shift is unlikely to happen from January, 2018, Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar had said in the Parliament last month.

According to reports, the Centre was planning to change the financial year from 2018, ending the 150-year old tradition. Earlier this year, the finance ministry advanced the Union Budget by a month to February 1 from the 28th.

Next year’s budget speech would also have a much lighter `Part B, the section that contains tax proposals. Under goods and services tax (GST), most indirect taxes including excise, special additional duties and service tax among others will be subsumed in the new tax structure.

The rates are decided by the GST council, a panel headed by the Central finance minister with state finance ministers as members. Effectively, this takes away a significant part of the central finance minister’s discretionary authority to rule on indirect taxes. After GST, Part B of the union budget speech, will have income and other direct taxes and customs duties, a major parting from the previous practice that when every minor indirect tax change had market and sectoral implications

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