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Through the Looking Glass

Kitty Miv, Editor
02 April, 2020

As I write this week's column, it's April Fool's Day, a day on which the journalistic fraternity attempt to convince the world at large to disregard the evidence of their eyes, ears, and sometimes good sense. However, given that for the past few weeks, we have all been obliged, as the Queen in 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' suggests, to "believe five impossible things before breakfast", I'm not quite sure where to go with that.

Oh, hang on... here's an impossible thing. The Republicans AND the Democrats AND President Trump all managed to reach agreement on the emergency stimulus package discussed in last week's column, and to sign it into law. (Despite the best efforts of Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) who attempted to oppose the package on ideological grounds, and to force a roll-call vote, but whose efforts did not garner sufficient support in the House to impede the progress of the landmark legislation.) The President was also forced to step back from hints that he planned to re-open the country for business by Easter, with the seriousness of the situation facing the country apparently made clear to him by his advisors, and by leaders in areas currently facing the worst ravages of the pandemic, such as New York.

Elsewhere in the world, meanwhile, death rates continued to grow (except in China, in which the majority of new cases seem now to be exported from elsewhere, and where the authorities are – with some caution and confusion, it must be said – attempting to re-open shuttered businesses.

Faced with an unprecedented situation, and with economic and social conundrums the like of which haven't been seen since World War II (if then), governments internationally have been obliged to fight on several fronts at once, attempting to ensure support and resources for their health systems, whilst seeking to bolster stuttering economies and suddenly impoverished populations, in the hopes of preventing short-term destitution and long-term hardship.

Moves in this area over the past week have included in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 ordered the country's population of 1.3 billion into lockdown for three weeks. However, in addition, the Indian authorities announced various tax measures to support businesses and individuals. These included that:

  • The deadline for FY18-19 income tax returns has been extended from March 31, 2020, to June 30, 2020.
  • The Aadhaar-PAN linking date is to be extended from March 31, 2020, to June 30, 2020.
  • If payments are made under the Vivad se Vishwas tax dispute resolution scheme by June 30, 2020, no additional 10 percent amount will be charged.
  • Various deadlines for taxpayer obligations in relation to enforcement proceedings under various laws, including the Income Tax Act and the Wealth Tax Act, have been deferred to June 30, 2020.
  • Where a taxpayer defers payment of advanced tax, self-assessment tax, regular tax, tax deduction at source, tax collected at source, equalization levy, securities transaction tax, and commodity transactions tax, a reduced rate of interest on tax dues will apply, of nine percent per year. Penalties and late payment fees will be waived.

In the area of goods and services tax policy, the Government has announced:

  • For those having aggregate annual turnover of less than INR50m (USD655,000), the GSTR-3B return due in March, April, and May 2020, may be filed by June 30, 2020. No interest, late fee, or penalty will be charged.
  • For those with turnover exceeding the aforementioned threshold, the same extension applies but tax dues will attract a reduced rate of interest of nine percent per year, from 15 days after the due date.
  • The date for opting into the composition scheme, for making composition scheme payments for Q1 2020, and for the filing of the 2019-20 return for composition dealers will be extended to June 30, 2020.
  • The deadline for filing GST annual returns for FY18-19 has also been pushed forward to June 30, 2020, from March 31, 2020.
  • The due date for certain taxpayer responses to enforcement actions from the tax authority will be extended to June 30, 2020.

The Indian Government also revealed that no additional fees will be charged for late filing during a moratorium period from April 1 to September 30, 2020, for any document, return, statement, etc., required to be filed in the MCA-21 Registry, irrespective of its due date.

Elsewhere in the world, VAT, GST and other indirect taxes appeared to be the weapon of choice for the majority of governments, with rates reduced on key medical supplies and highly impacted industries. Deferrals and removals of late filing and payment penalties were also in evidence, although a cynical observer might wonder to what degree this represents a lack of government resources currently available to collect such penalties. Whatever the reasoning, though, a degree of latitude is likely to be welcomed by taxpayers with other things on their minds, and at least they can be relatively sure that it's no April Fool...

Until next week!

About the Author

Kitty Miv, Editor

Kitty was born in Argentina in 1960 to a Scottish cattle rancher and his Argentine wife. Educated in Edinburgh and at Princeton, Kitty worked for the World Bank as an economist, where she met and married an emigre Iranian banker. During her time with the Bank, Kitty worked in a number of emerging markets, including a spell in the ex-USSR as a Transition Economies Team Leader. Kitty is now a consultant in Brussels and has free-lance writing relationships with a number of prominent economic publications. kitty@lowtax.net


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