“In order to provide relief to salaried taxpayers, I propose to allow a standard deduction of Rs 40,000, in lieu of the present exemption in respect of transport allowance and reimbursement of miscellaneous medical expenses,” finance minister Arun Jaitley said while presenting the Budget 2018-19 in Parliament, on February 1, 2018. The standard deduction, which is provided to salary earners, was discontinued from the assessment year 2006-07. The minister, however, did not propose any change in the tax slabs or rates for individual taxpayers.
Jaitley said apart from reducing paper work and compliance, this will help middle class employees even more in terms of reduction in their tax liability. “The revenue cost of this decision is approximately Rs 8,000 crores,” he said. The total number of salaried employees and pensioners who will benefit from this decision is around 2.5 crores.
Experts, however, said that it is a very nominal benefit to the salaried class. “Standard deduction of Rs 40,000 p.a. for salaried individuals seems to be a very nominal benefit as the current tax-free limit for medical expense reimbursement of 15,000 p.a. and transport allowance exemption of Rs 1,600 p.m. is anyway leading to a total tax-free salary of Rs 34,200 p.a.,” Alok Agrawal, senior director, Deloitte India said.
The finance minister said the government had made many positive changes in the personal income-tax rate applicable to individuals in the last three years. “Therefore, I do not propose to make any further change in the structure of the income tax rates for individuals,” he said.
Jaitley also noted that there is a general perception in the society that individual business persons have better income as compared to salaried class. However, income tax data analysis suggests that major portion of personal income-tax collection comes from the salaried class, he observed.
According to Jaitley, for assessment year 2016-17, 1.89 crore salaried individuals have filed their returns and have paid total tax of Rs 1.44 lakh crores, which works out to average tax payment of Rs 76,306 per individual salaried taxpayer. As against this, he said that 1.88 crore individual business taxpayers including professionals, who filed their returns for the same assessment year paid total tax of Rs 48,000 crores, which works out to an average tax payment of Rs 25,753 per individual business taxpayer.