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Report for tax cuts on G-sec investments
September, 02nd 2006
The report on fuller capital account convertibility has favoured exemption of dividend distribution tax on investments in government securities through gilt funds and gilt mutual funds and removal of tax on direct investments by retail investors. These form part of its suggestion to boost retail investment in the government securities market. It has recommended short selling in gilts to be extended beyond the current period of one day and allowing non-resident long-term investors like foreign central banks, endowment funds and retirement funds to invest in gilts to expand the investor base. The liquidity in the gilts market could be improved by allowing a wide range of economic agents and working out a tax-neutral debt consolidation process. Debt consolidation involves merging of government securities of varying coupon rates but similar maturities which, at present, creates confusion among investors for price discovery. It has further recommended allowing gold as tradable currency by developing an inter-bank cash/spot market in gold to activate inter-bank lending and borrowing in gold. For preventing hoarding and speculation and retail investment in gold, banks should be allowed to lend to traders against primary gold, provide custodial services for Sebi-regulated gold exchange traded funds and offer dematerialised facility to the general public to store gold. It said banks should be allowed to access the overseas market both for short and long-term borrowing and lending and the investment should be linked to the strength of the bank. In order to help banks manage foreign exchange volatility, banks should be allowed to use currency futures and hedge currency swaps by buying and selling foreign currency without limits. To minimise the influence of non-deliverable forwards (derivative instrument in south east Asian countries and accessed by Indian corporates with receivables in these markets) on Indian markets, the RBI should allow foreign institutional investors (FIIs) to cancel and re-book forward contracts and other derivatives booked to hedge rupee exposures. In offering its views on the corporate debt market, the committee has suggested more reliance on rating agency assessment rather than on other disclosures. It also wants abolition of stamp duty on bond issuance and securitised debt. The government should also consider explicit tax pass-through treatment to special purpose vehicles launched for securitisation in line with venture capital funds, it said. The ceiling on FII investment in corporate debt, should henceforth be linked to fresh issuance rather than the present practice of having absolute limits. While the absolute limit of $1.5 billion will be retained for 2006-07, it should be fixed at 15 per cent of fresh issuance between 2007-08 and 2008-09 and 25 per cent between 2009-10 and 2010-2011. Similarly, the limit for FII investment in government securities should be linked to 6 per cent of gross issuance of central and state government in 2006-07 and gradually raised to 8 per cent between 2007-08 and 10 per cent for the period between 2009-10 and 2010-2011. At present, the FII investment in gilts is pegged at $2 billion for 2006-07.
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