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Is the Government Too Strict with ITR Filings?

The margin for error is minimum for the IT department

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Is the Government too Strict with ITR Filings

Everyone wants to earn more. But nobody likes to pay more tax.

It is like wanting to eat a lot of sweets, but not wanting to gain weight..

The income tax regulations see miniscule changes every year.

What is the new normal as far as filing your IT returns is concerned?

With the advent of technology based data collection platforms, cheating with the IT department is almost next to impossible for a salaried employee.

But what about the business class? Is there any scope for doing that?

Well! Not that you would want to do that. Ahem! Ahem!

Nobody is suggesting you to!

But let’s find out how strict our government is with ITR filing.

And is that the case with every category of income tax payers?

Also read: Citibank Is Shutting Down Operations in India. What Will Happen to the Account Holders’ Money?

For the Farmers

Income tax for the Farmers
Source: TelegraphIndia

The section 10(1) of the income tax rules says that any income which is earned by agricultural sources, is exempt from income tax.

Hence, farmers do not file income tax returns.

So, the government is not strict at all.

But does the government collect zero taxes from the farmers?

The farmers form the largest section of India’s earning community; though ranked lower in terms of per capita income.

The government would not want to ignore this huge section of the earning community for tax collections. And that is what they have been doing.

The government collects taxes from the farmers by way of indirect taxes, which does not cross the minds of the farmers usually.

So, the government is lenient for the farmers in terms of direct taxation, but equally severe as for others in terms of indirect taxation.

So what is the penultimate result? Strict or not?

Indirect taxation on necessary items of daily use, like petrol, diesel should be reduced for the farmers. So yes, it is time we see a customized indirect taxation regime in India.

For the Senior Citizens

Income tax for senior citizens
Cristian Newman on Unsplash

A person in the age group of 60 to 80 is considered as a senior citizen. A person above 80 is called a very senior citizen. Let us have a look at the benefits for this class of taxpayers.

Higher exemption limit

Exemption limit is the measure of income up till which a person is not liable to pay income tax.

For the financial year 2020-21, a non-senior citizen is exempt to paying taxes on Rs. 2.5 lakhs of his income. The same is extended up to Rs. 3 lakhs for senior citizens. This additional benefit of Rs. 50,000 for a senior citizen will keep the IT department in their ‘good books’.

A very senior citizen enjoys an even higher exemption limit of Rs 5 lakh.

Paper filing of Income Tax Return

The government allows the very senior citizens to file their ITR using the paper mode as well, in addition to the online filing which is the only option for a few taxpayer groups.

Paper filing of Income Tax Return

So this government is not strict for the 80 plus as it still allows them to file their ITR as they could in their 40s.

Relief from payment of advance tax

A resident individual with an estimated tax liability of more than Rs. 10,000 for the year has to pay advance tax as per section 208.

But section 207 exempts senior citizens from paying advance taxes. Hence, a senior citizen having no income from business or profession, is not liable to pay any advance taxes.

Income tax deduction on interest on bank deposits

As per section 194A of the income tax act, an interest income upto Rs. 50,000 from savings account and fixed deposits of a senior citizen is exempt from TDS (tax deducted at source). The interest income can be from a bank, post office or a cooperative society.

Tax benefits with respect to medical insurance and expenditure

There is a benefit of Rs. 25,000 for payment towards medical insurance policies for the non-senior citizens. But this benefit is set at Rs. 50,000 for the senior citizens as per section 80D of the income tax act.

Also, the IT department deducts tax on income which is used for treatment of certain illnesses as mentioned in section 80DDB of the income tax act. The expense can be done for self or a dependent. This limit is set at Rs. 40,000 for non-senior citizens; but at Rs. 1 lakh for senior citizens.

Considering all the above perks over a non-senior citizen, a senior citizen will definitely find the government lenient in setting ITR filing norms.

Or, if you are a senior citizen, and irked because you are not of the same view; here is one more good news for you- or you can take it otherwise as well.

Not Strict, But Very Cunning

Senior citizens above 75 are exempted from filing income tax returns; and April 2021 onwards will be the first time they will exercise this added advantage over others.

This is an add-on from the Union Budget- 2021 to the earlier perks for senior citizens.

But we must know, the government loves to be in the ‘good books’ as they have to keep a watch on electoral gains as well, apart from taxation gains.

The finance minister said- “Exempt from filing ITR returns”; not, “Exempt from paying taxes”.

Exempt from filing ITR returns

You see the bolded text above, because that is what stood out in the media as well during the reporting of the Union Budget- 2021.

So, a well packaged ordinary product, that was all it was!

Also, only senior citizens above 75 having no income except pension and interest from banks are eligible for this exemption; not all.

The tax will be deducted for such senior citizens by the banks serving their savings accounts.

“As if filing the ITR returns was a bigger problem than paying the tax to the IT department”, a senior citizen reading this would exclaim.

For Non-Senior Citizens

The tax slabs have been kept unchanged for all income tax payers from last financial year. It is as stated below:

Taxable IncomeTax Rate
Up to Rs. 2,50,000Nil
Rs. 2,50,001 to Rs. 5,00,0005%
Rs. 5,00,001 to Rs. 10,00,00020%
Above Rs. 10,00,0030%
Income tax slab

The Covid-19 situation had eroded the tax collections of the government, as most of the funds were channelled towards the growth packages to counter the pandemic.

Hence, it was expected that the government will hike the tax rates for the highest income slab during the Union Budget- 2021.

But the government was not strict on the high-income groups as well and the tax rates were kept unchanged. This move annoyed many, just as it relieved a few.

So, every income group mentioned above will have a different stance on the decisions of the government.

What After Filing of ITR Is Done?

Filing of the ITR is not the end of the worries for a taxpayer.

There is more to it.

The government demands all the information from the taxpayer to begin with. This information is then cross checked with other sources of information like the employer of the taxpayer or the customer of the taxpayer.

This is a good practice to follow until it turns out to be irksome for the taxpayer.

Many times, the taxpayer is scrutinized unnecessarily just on the basis of some information from a third-party source, which is not necessarily correct.

The IT department needs to work on this.

It should be strict where needed, but not everywhere.

The overall system of filing the ITR is very dynamic. It keeps on undergoing changes every year which is detrimental to the understanding of the regular tax payer.

This attracts even more expenses for a common man- the tax filing service fee of the professionals.

Government uses ITR data to frame economic policies. So making people file ITR is very important, as this data guides the government to a specific direction regarding economic situations.

Also read: Top 5 FinTech Growth Ideas in 2021

Minimum Margin Between Leniency And Strictness  

A strict IT department is not necessarily your adversary.

It has to monitor the tax regime of the entire nation, abiding by the politician’s wishes- which are not necessarily for the benefit of the taxpayers or the nation.

Scams and tax thefts are not new to India. And we haven’t seen the last yet.

The government is already guilty of being lenient on many occasions.

If the taxpayer himself is strict with his tax filings, it will serve him well for his personal financial management; rather than waiting for the government.   

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Finance

Rbi Bans American Express and Diners Club From May 1, 2021

RBI swipes away Amex from India

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RBI Bans American Express

Everybody loves to flaunt the upgraded status of their credit cards at airport lounges and restaurants.

But, what if you think of doing so the next time and have to cut a sorry figure, as you come to know that your country’s central bank has banned these cards.

Yep! If you own an American Express or a Diners Club card, you need to know that RBI has passed a notice on banning American Express and Diners Club from May 1, 2021.

But, why has RBI been so severe on these multinational financial services providers? What is next in store for you if you use these cards? Can you use it hereafter?

What happens to all the privileges you gained on your Amex and Diners Club card all these years? Is your privacy at stake?

Let us find out all these answers, one by one.

The Ban

Amex and Dinner Club ban

RBI has banned Amex and Diners Club from acquiring new customers from May 1, 2021.

This ban has been imposed by an order issued by the RBI on April 23, 2021.

Reason For The Ban

According to RBI, Amex and Diners Club have violated data storage norms.

“These entities have been found non-compliant with the directions on Storage of Payment System Data,” the RBI said.

Both these card service providers are authorized payment network operators as per the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 (PSS Act).

RBI has taken this decision as per the powers vested in RBI by the PSS Act.

But this is not a sudden outburst by RBI. Both the card service providers were warned about the same in April 2018 itself.

In April 2018, RBI directed all the payments service providers in India to store all the data (full end-to-end transaction details, information collected, carried, and processed as part of the payment instruction) in Indian online data storage facilities. RBI allotted 6 months to put this order into effect.

It also required the payment card companies to report compliance to RBI and submit a board-approved System Audit Report (SAR).

But American Express and Diners Club failed to submit the compliance report, and hence the ban.

It is shocking to know that American Express, a leading payments card company, paid less heed to the central bank’s instructions!

This was very unlikely to happen. What was American Express doing all these 2 years since April, 2018?

When Will The Ban Be Lifted?

The ban has been imposed will full certainty by the RBI.

Will RBI, India ban use of Cryptocurrency

But, Amex and Diners Club can make some early moves to convince RBI about their future intentions. If they act responsibly and take the path as guided by the RBI over secure storage of data locally, they present themselves a better opportunity.

The employees of Amex and Diners Club will feel stranded at the moment. The marketing teams working for onboarding new customers to their companies will be left with no work from May 1 onwards. This will be an add-on worry for the employees during the ongoing pandemic.

Hence, RBI can reconsider the ban in the future, if Amex and Diners Club adhere to its norms.

The Existing Customers

The ban does not speak anything about the existing customers of American Express and Diners Club.

Hence, all the card owners will be able to transact normally- they can use, upgrade and enjoy privileges as before.

To redeem its brand value, and more importantly, to redeem its customers, Amex can offer a few giveaways in the form of offers and discounts. The ongoing pandemic in India will restrict the users from availing these benefits, though.

But now that both these card companies are on the radar of RBI, the cardholders better hope their card issuers remain in the ‘good books’ of the regulators.

Other Similar Bans

This is not the first time that a card company or a financial services provider is banned by the RBI.

HDFC Bank faced such a ban in December, 2020.

Yes, the so-called leading bank of India faced a similar ban. It was barred from launching any new digital services and issuing new credit cards.

This ban came as a result of the frequent outages on the mobile banking and net banking systems of HDFC Bank for a period of 2 years.

Even after 6 months of imposing the ban, there are no signs of the ban being lifted.

HDFC Bank is partners with Diners Club for the sale of credit cards and specialized payments systems.

Diners Club did not learn the lesson from HDFC Bank it seems.

Both HDFC Bank and Diners Club under the radar of RBI at almost the same time- this shows the ‘taken for granted’ attitude of the financial services sector towards RBI.

Do you know, Diners Club International, founded in 1950, is the first independent card company in the world to issue credit cards to its customers. But , RBI has put swords on the oldest credit card company in the world.

Options For Customers

After this ban, the customers are left with options like- SBI Card, Axis Bank Cards, Icici Bank Cards, to name a few.

SBI Card will be the biggest beneficiary of this move. The ‘sarkari’ tag associated with SBI has done wonders to its retail banking business. The same is expected with SBI Card as its penetration strengthens in the tier-2 cities of India.

Foreign Companies – Go Away

Citibank has shut down its retail banking business in India. It will leave India soon.

Citibank Is Shutting Down Operations In India
Source

Many other international leading brands from the financial sector- like Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank have fled India, too.

And now that American Express and Diners Club are feeling the heat, it is to be understood where things are heading.

Non-compliance of the norms set by RBI within the stipulated time cannot be just a brain-fade from Amex and Diners Club. There can be more to it.

Is it that these companies did not want to store their data locally in India and were waiting for RBI to call the shots?

Whatever it is; well-done RBI!

We shouldn’t let anyone misuse our country’s data, should we?

If we can swipe, we can swipe them away too!

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Finance

Tax Benefits of Investing in Real Estate

If you feel equity is overvalued currently, real estate can be a better option.

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Tax Benefits Of Investing In Real Estate

Real estate and gold are the favorite asset classes of Indians for investments. Equity comes last on the list.

Investing in real estate comes with a few tax benefits.

But, the benefits have got so many ifs and buts that it is confusing for a regular taxpayer to comprehend for his use case.

Do you know that selling a house before and after 24 months of purchase attracts a different tax rate?

Do you know that a house constructed, and a house purchased, both come under different purviews of the income tax? Or does it not come under income tax at all?

Then where does it find its place in the tax regime?

Well, like all the topics here on TBM, let’s disintegrate this topic as well for better and easy understanding.

Let’s take it one by one.

So, here we go!

Real Estate- A Capital Asset

Real estate is a capital asset. But not all real estate is a capital asset.

Rural agricultural land is not considered a capital asset. This is because the income generated from the sale of rural agricultural land is exempt from taxation.

Section 10(1) of the income tax rules says that any income which is earned by agricultural sources is exempt from income tax.

But, all other forms of real estate like- residential property, commercial property, plots come under the taxation regime.

In fact, urban agricultural land also comes under the purview of taxation.

Capital Gains

The gain on every asset considered as a capital asset is called capital gain.

Capital Gains

So, if you buy a house for Rs. 25 lakhs and sell it for Rs. 50 lakhs, your capital gain is 50-25= Rs. 25 lakhs.

So the capital gain is nothing more than ‘apna fayda’ in any transaction of buy and sell. It is just that these terms are packaged heavily.

Now, capital gains are classified into two categories:

  • Short-term capital gain (STCG)
  • Long-term capital gain (LTCG)

The difference between the two can be gauged by their literal understanding.

Here is the detailed difference between the two:

Time

STCG is applicable when the difference between buying and selling of the residential property is less than 24 months. LTCG is applicable when the same is more than 24 months.

Tax rate

STCG is taxed as per the income tax slab of the individual. The income tax slabs are as under for the current financial year:

Tax Benefit Is Not A Discount

LTCG is taxed at a flat rate of 20%. There are many exemptions in LTCG taxation and are discussed below.

Indexation benefit

Indexation benefit takes into account inflation.

So it’s like- why should you pay more tax if you sold your house at a higher selling price, just because there was a boom in the real estate prices due to heavy inflation? Is it your fault?

Hence, the indexation benefit has been introduced to remove this drawback.

Indexation is considered in LTCG, but is not considered while processing the taxes for STCG. This is fair enough as inflation has a minimum effect in 24 months.

Exemptions

 There are no exemptions in STCG. A few exemptions can be availed in LTCG.

Let us talk about these exceptions in LTCG, which make real estate investments beneficial.

Benefits Under Section 54

Eligible Assets

This section has provisions for reducing your LTCG tax on the sale of residential house property only. The residential house can be a purchased one or a self-constructed one.

But, plots and commercial properties don’t come under its purview.

Beneficiary

Who can claim this benefit?

Only individuals and HUF can claim this benefit under Section 54.

Time Limit

To claim the benefits under this section, the residential property should be held for a minimum of 24 months.

So, you cannot buy a house every month, and keep on claiming benefits by selling them every single month.

Because if you do that, you will come under the purview of STCG, which anyhow has got no exemption benefit.

But what is the benefit?

Benefit

The benefit is that you don’t have to pay the LTCG tax at a flat rate of 20% (as mentioned above) on the profits earned by selling a house.

How?

You have to buy another house with the amount you earned from the earlier property sale. You can also construct a new house, if not buy an already constructed one. But, you cannot buy a plot to claim this benefit.

Also, it is mandatory to buy a new property within 2 years of the sale of the original property. A property bought 1 year before the sale of the original property will also serve the purpose. If the taxpayer prefers constructing a house over buying one, the time limit is extended to 3 years.

Let’s take an example.

If you sell a house for Rs. 50 lakhs, which you had bought earlier at Rs. 25 lakhs; then your capital gain is Rs. 25 lakhs. You will have to buy another property or a maximum of two properties worth Rs. 25 lakhs; so that you don’t pay the LTCG tax of 20% on this Rs. 25 lakhs.

This is a saving of Rs. 5 lakhs.

Now, it is not necessary to buy another property worth Rs. 25 lakhs only. You can buy another property worth Rs. 50 lakhs as well; but only Rs. 25 lakhs can be claimed for tax exemption.

Maximum LTCG Capping

This benefit is not for the real estate tycoons; as it should be.

The maximum LTCG which can be exempted using Section 54 is Rs. 2 crores.

Also, it is not for real estate brokers and traders.

This is because you can avail of this benefit just once in your lifetime.

“Why not buy a new house and enjoy this taxation benefit, and then sell the new house immediately after and relax with cash in hand”? – A naive taxpayer can question their Chartered Accountant.

This, too, is not possible, as if the new property used for claiming the benefit is sold within 3 years of purchase, the exemption will be reversed. The individual will then be liable to pay the LTCG tax in the next assessment year.

The taxation guys are smart, it seems. No room for mischief!

To add to the strict norms, it is mandatory to park the LTCG in dedicated capital gain account schemes of banks. It cannot be kept in savings accounts.

Also read: Private Company vs Public Company

Other Sections

This was an elaborate explanation of Section 54, which provides tax benefits to real estate investors.

But there are various other sections that are targeted towards the taxation benefits of the real estate investors.

Here is a brief explanation of the other sections, as the nature of the benefits remains more or less the same, as in section 54.

Section 54EC

Eligible Assets

All capital assets- including house property, plots, and commercial property, come under the purview of Section 54EC.

Beneficiary

All taxpayers can take benefit under this section, unlike Section 54.

Benefit

To claim an LTCG benefit under Section 54EC, the real estate property should be held for a minimum of 3 years.

After the sale of this property, the LTCG should be invested in specified bonds with a lock-in period of 5 years. This investment should be done within 6 months of the sale of the property.

The investment can be done in National Highways Authority Of India (NHAI) bonds or Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) bonds.

So, as per the example mentioned above, Rs. 25 lakhs need to be invested in these bonds to exempt them from LTCG taxation.

A maximum of Rs. 50 lakhs of LTCG can be claimed under this section.

Unlike Section 54, no dedicated bank account is needed here.

The returns on these bonds are very low, which are around 5-6%. These returns are taxable as per the income tax slabs. Hence, Section 54 stands out in front of Section 54EC.

Section 54F

Eligible Assets

Commercial properties, plots, and all other capital assets except house property come under the purview of Section 54F.

Benefit

The major difference between Section 54F and Section 54 is- The ‘entire sale value’ of the original real estate property should be invested for the purchase of a new ‘residential property only’.

Hence, as per our example, the entire Rs. 50 lakhs have to be invested to buy a new property.

If only Rs. 25 lakhs is invested, you get 50% benefit, i.e. benefit on 50% of the LTCG (Rs. 12.5 lakhs).

Real Estate And Unrealistic Expectations

Investments in real estate are not always fruitful. It depends on the bull and bear cycles of real estate, each of which lasts for 10 years, historically.

Grabbing all the available loans to buy real estate disturbs the equations even further.

Real estate investors need to make informed decisions, which is rarely seen amongst a generalized pool of investors.

Not many know the exact tax benefits as well for their use-cases.

Tax Benefit Is Not A Discount

A tax benefit is sometimes seen as a discount.

A tax benefit is not a discount number on the price tag of a piece of land or a flat.

Tax Benefit Is Not A Discount

You can see it as a cashback offer- the closest you can relate to in this domain.

A middle-class person has to spend the savings of his lifetime, along with additional loans to buy real estate.

The tax benefit shouldn’t be the only decisive factor behind buying it.

You shouldn’t forget to claim your tax benefit too.

There is much more you can do to save tax on real estate apart from the above-discussed points.

Keep following TBM for more on this in the future. You can always reach out to your CA, if in a hurry.

That is the best way, as you don’t have to tax your mind.

It’s April. If you have paid the tax, just relax!

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Finance

CIF Number – The Only ‘Aadhar’ Of Your Bank Account

The ‘know how’ and ‘DIYs’ of the CIF number

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CIF Number - The Only ‘Aadhar’ Of Your Bank Account

If you have a bank account, you might have come across the term CIF number; at least once in your lifetime, surely.

If you don’t know what the CIF number is, then you are at the right place.

We’ve got you covered.

Let us dive deep into what a CIF number is and how it is important for the prompt working of the banking system.

What Is The CIF Number?

What Is The CIF Number

CIF stands for ‘Customer Information File’. As the name suggests, the file has a number which is known as the CIF number.

The format of the number varies with the banks i.e. different banks follow different formats for this number.

For example:

  • SBI: 11-digit
  • Central Bank of India:10-digit
  • AXIS Bank: 4-digit
  • HDFC: 8-digit

This number is highly essential for mobile banking or internet banking as this number works as the user ID. The user ID can be changed later on, but the CIF number is the digital virtual identity to every username changed in the future as well.

This customer information file carries all the banking information of the account holder in a digital form. So yes, your banker has all your banking information, that too, in detail.

So, does it imply- “Do not share your CIF number with anybody”?

Well not at all. It is not like a secret ATM pin. It is mentioned in every document related to your banking identity.

It contains information about the owner of the account, ongoing as well as previous loans, demat services, account type, account balance, and transaction information.

All the accounts you have with the bank can be linked to one single CIF number. This is useful in growing your Total Relationship Value (TRV) or Customer Relationship Value (CRV).

It is used by banks to determine how much minimum balance you can maintain, or how much credit can be given to you.

Just like the Aadhar card number gives you a unique identity, a CIF number gives you a unique banking code for all your banking needs.

This code cannot be changed as it is specially coded with all your information.

Also read: Private Company vs Public Company

Where Can You Find Your CIF Number?

There are various ways of finding your CIF number. Both offline and online.

It doesn’t matter in which bank you have your account, the process is the same for every bank.

Let’s get to it.

Offline Mode:

Passbook

This is the easiest way to find your CIF number.

The CIF number is printed on the first page of your passbook, just above the account number.

CIF number in SBI passbook
Source

Checkbook

Just like the passbook, the CIF number is printed on the first page of your checkbook. You won’t find it on the cheques.

Customer care

You can always go old school and contact the customer care number to know your CIF number.

Online Mode:

Internet banking

  1. Log in to your internet banking.
  2. Select the ‘e-statement’ option.
  3. Choose the period for e-statement.
  4. The account summary page will show your CIF number.
CIF number in SBI Online account
Source

Mobile app

Nowadays, every major bank has their app for the comfort of its customers.

You can easily find the CIF number in the app of your respective bank.

SMS E-statement

Every bank provides an e-statement at your will, it is usually through SMS, but you can opt for email.

Just send a request to customer care. The automated operator will guide you through the process.

Do You Need The CIF Number Often?

You won’t require the CIF number often, as it is mainly for bank administrative purposes.

You will need it if you wish to change your bank branch or if you wish to access mobile banking and internet banking.

Every bank you change will pass on the CIF number to the next bank. The new bank will fetch the data from this CIF number.

A loan, mutual fund, fixed deposit is managed through the existing account number usually; hence producing your CIF number all the time is not required.

CIF Number- The Aadhar For The FinTechs

The FinTech companies are evolving.

CIF Number for FinTech Companies

The services of personalized bank accounts, personal and health insurance solutions, loans, and peer-to-peer transfer of assets are being made easy and fast for the customers.

Hence, the information of the CIF number is like gold dust for the FinTech companies.

The CIF number with self-learning algorithms can do wonders to transform the financial services sector. 

In today’s world, where online frauds are the order of the day, financial data security is the need of the hour. It is time to segregate data and work more upon data privacy. CIF number is the key here.

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