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[Prelims Spotlight] Important Keywords Regarding Budget, Fiscal Policy and Taxation

 

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24 March 2020

Important keywords regarding budget, fiscal policy and taxation

 

Annual financial statement:

The Union Budget is the annual financial statement that contains the government’s revenue and expenditure for a fiscal year.

It may also include planned sales volumes and revenues, resource quantities, costs and expenses, assets, liabilities and cash flows.

The statement details the revenues from all sources, and expenditure on all activities that the government will undertake for the fiscal year. The fiscal year is calculated from 1 April-31 March.

Under Article 112 of the Constitution, the government has to present a statement of estimated revenue and expenditure for every fiscal. This statement is called the annual financial statement. This document is divided into three sections: For each of these funds, the central government is required to present a statement of revenue and expenditure.

1. Consolidated Fund:

The Consolidated Fund of India, created under Article 266 of the Indian Constitution, includes the revenues received by the government and expenses made by it.

All the revenue that the government receives through direct (income tax, corporation tax etc.) or indirect tax (Goods and Services Tax or GST) go into the Consolidated Fund of India.

Revenue from non-tax sources like dividends, profits from the PSUs, and income from general services also contribute to the fund. Recoveries of loans, earnings from disinvestment and repayment of debts issued by the Centre also contribute to the fund.

However, no money can be withdrawn for meeting expenses until the government gets the approval of the Parliament. Examples of expenditure include wages, salaries and pension of government employees, and other fixed costs. The repayment of debts incurred by the government is also done through the Consolidated Fund of India.

The Consolidated Fund of India is divided into five parts:

  • Revenue account – receipts,
  • Revenue account – disbursements,
  • Capital account – receipts,
  • Capital account – disbursements, and
  • Disbursements ‘charged’ on the Consolidated Fund of India.

Disbursements ‘charged’ on the Consolidated Fund of India is a special category within the Consolidated Fund of India which is not put to vote in the Parliament.

This means whatever comes under this category need to be paid, whether the Budget is passed or not.

The salary and allowances of the President, speaker and deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha, chairman and deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, salaries and allowances of Supreme Court judges, pensions of Supreme Court and High Court judges come under this category.

2.Contingency fund:

Like the Consolidated Fund of India, the Contingency Fund of India constitutes a part of the annual financial statement.

Established under Article 267(1) of the Indian Constitution, the fund is maintained by the ministry of finance on behalf of the President of India.

As the name suggests, the Contingency Fund of India is an account maintained for meeting expenses during any unforeseen emergencies.

Parliamentary approval for such unforeseen expenditure is obtained, ex- post-facto, and an equivalent amount is drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India to recoup the Contingency Fund after such ex-post-facto approval.

3. Public account.

Article 266 of the Constitution defines the Public Account as being those funds that are received on behalf of the Government of India.

Money held by the government in a trust — such as in the case of Provident Funds, Small Savings collections, income of government set apart for expenditure on specific objects like road development, primary education, reserve/special Funds, etc — are kept in the Public Account.

Public Account funds do not belong to the government and have to be finally paid back to the persons and authorities that deposited them.

Parliamentary authorisation for such payments is not required.

However, when money is withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund with the approval of Parliament and kept in the Public Account for expenditure for a specific purpose, it is submitted for a vote in Parliament.

Appropriation bill

Appropriation Bill is a money bill that allows the government to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet its expenses during the course of a financial year.

As per Article 114 of the Constitution, the government can withdraw money from the Consolidated Fund only after receiving approval from Parliament.

To put it simply, the Finance Bill contains provisions on financing the expenditure of the government, and Appropriation Bill specifies the quantum and purpose for withdrawing money.

Vote-on-account

The Constitution says that no money can be withdrawn by the government from the Consolidated Fund of India except under appropriation made by law.

For that, an appropriation bill is passed during the Budget process.

However, the appropriation bill may take time to pass through the Parliament and become a law. Meanwhile, the government would need permission to spend even a single penny from April 1 when the new financial year starts.

Vote on the account is the permission to withdraw money from the Consolidated Fund of India in that period, usually two months.

Vote on the account is a formality and requires no debate. When elections are scheduled a few months into the new financial year, the government seeks vote on account for four months. Essentially, vote on account is the interim permission of the parliament to the government to spend money.

Corporation tax:

Corporation tax is a direct tax imposed on the net income or profit that enterprises make from their businesses. Companies, both public and privately registered in India under the Companies Act 1956, are liable to pay corporation tax. This tax is levied at a specific rate according to the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Fringe benefits tax (FBT):
The taxation of perquisites – or fringe benefits – provided by an employer to his employees, in addition to the cash salary or wages paid, is fringe benefits tax. It was introduced in Budget 2005-06. The government felt many companies were disguising perquisites such as club facilities as ordinary business expenses, which escaped taxation altogether. Employers have to now pay FBT on a percentage of the expense incurred on such perquisites.

Direct Tax:

A direct tax is paid directly by an individual or organization to the imposing entity. A taxpayer, for example, pays direct taxes to the government for different purposes, including real property tax, personal property tax, income tax, or taxes on assets. Direct taxes are based on the ability-to-pay principle. This economic principle states that those who have more resources or earn a higher income should pay more taxes.

Indirect Tax
In the case of indirect taxes, the incidence of tax is usually not on the person who pays the tax. These are largely taxes on expenditure and include Customs, excise and service tax.

Indirect taxes are considered regressive, the burden on the rich and the poor is alike. That is why governments strive to raise a higher proportion of taxes through direct taxes. Moving on, we come to the next important receipt item in the revenue account, non-tax revenue.

Non-tax revenue:

Other than taxation being a primary source of income, the government also earns a recurring income, which is called non-tax revenue. While sources of tax revenue are few, the sources of non-tax revenue are many, with the number of collections per source. Although there are many sources of non-tax revenue, the amount per source is much less than that for tax revenue.

For example, when citizens use services offered by the government, they pay bills, which are categorised as non-tax revenue, as the government provides infrastructure support to implement the services. Non-tax revenue also includes the interest collected by the government on the loans or funds offered to states.

Grants-in-aid and contributions
The third receipt item in the revenue account is relatively small grants-in-aid and contributions. These are in the nature of pure transfers to the government without any repayment obligation.
These include expense incurred on organs of state such as Parliament, judiciary and elections. A substantial amount goes into administering fiscal services such as tax collection. The biggest item is the interest payment on loans taken by the government. Defence and other services like police also get a sizeable share. Having looked at receipts and expenditure on revenue account we come to an important item, the difference between the two, the revenue deficit.

Revenue deficit:

Revenue deficit arises when the government’s revenue expenditure exceeds the total revenue receipts.

Revenue deficit includes those transactions that have a direct impact on a government’s current income and expenditure. This represents that the government’s own earnings are not sufficient to meet the day-to-day operations of its departments. Revenue deficit turns into borrowings when the government spends more than what it earns and has to resort to the external borrowings.

               Revenue Deficit= Total revenue receipts – Total revenue expenditure.

Revenue Deficit deals only with the government’s revenue receipts and revenue expenditures.

Note that revenue receipts are receipts which neither create liability nor lead to a reduction in assets.

It is further divided into two heads:

  • Receipt from Tax (Direct Tax,  Indirect Tax)
  • Receipts from Non-Tax Revenue

Revenue Expenditure is referred to as the expenditure that does not result in the creation of assets reduction of liabilities. It is further divided into two types

  • Plan revenue expenditure
  • Non-plan revenue expenditure

Fiscal Deficit:
The fiscal deficit is defined as an excess of total budget expenditure over total budget receipts excluding borrowings during a fiscal year. In simple words, it is the amount of borrowing the government has to resort to meet its expenses. A large deficit means a large amount of borrowing. The fiscal deficit is a measure of how much the government needs to borrow from the market to meet its expenditure when its resources are inadequate.

Primary deficit:

Primary deficit is defined as a fiscal deficit of current year minus interest payments on previous borrowings.

         Primary deficit= Fiscal deficit – Interest payment on the previous borrowing

In other words, whereas fiscal deficit indicates borrowing requirement inclusive of interest payment, the primary deficit indicates borrowing requirement exclusive of interest payment (i.e., amount of loan).

We have seen that borrowing requirement of the government includes not only accumulated debt, but also interest payment on the debt. If we deduct ‘interest payment on debt’ from borrowing, the balance is called the primary deficit.

Public debt:

Public debt receipts and public debt disbursals are borrowings and repayments during the year, respectively. The difference is the net accretion to the public debt. Public debt can be split into internal (money borrowed within the country) and external (funds borrowed from non-Indian sources). Internal debt comprises treasury bills, market stabilisation schemes, ways and means advance, and securities against small savings.

Ways and means advance (WMA):

One of RBI’s roles is to serve as banker to both central and state governments. In this capacity, RBI provides temporary support to tide over mismatches in their receipts and payments in the form of ways and means advances.

CESS:
This is an additional levy on the basic tax liability. Governments resort to cess for meeting specific expenditure.

Dividend distribution tax:

A dividend is a return given by a company to its shareholders out of the profits earned by the company in a particular year. Dividend constitutes income in the hands of the shareholders which ideally should be subject to income tax.

However, the income tax laws in India provided for an exemption of the dividend income received from Indian companies by the investors by levying a tax called the Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT) on the company paying the dividend. This tax has been abolished in the 2020-21 budget.

FRBM Act 2003:

The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM Act), 2003, establishes financial discipline to reduce the fiscal deficit.

What are the objectives of the FRBM Act?

The FRBM Act aims to introduce transparency in India’s fiscal management systems. The Act’s long-term objective is for India to achieve fiscal stability and to give the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) flexibility to deal with inflation in India. The FRBM Act was enacted to introduce a more equitable distribution of India’s debt over the years.

Key features of the FRBM Act

The FRBM Act made it mandatory for the government to place the following along with the Union Budget documents in Parliament annually:

1. Medium Term Fiscal Policy Statement

2. Macroeconomic Framework Statement

3. Fiscal Policy Strategy Statement

The FRBM Act proposed that revenue deficit, fiscal deficit, tax revenue and the total outstanding liabilities be projected as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in the medium-term fiscal policy statement.

 

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