Union Budget 2017-18

India’s Union Budget 2017-18 is historic in many ways. Departing from the colonial-era tradition of presenting the Union Budget on the last working day of February, the Honourable Finance Minister (FM) Mr. Arun Jaitley presented it on a much earlier date of February 1, 2017.

This was also the first time the Railway Budget was not separately presented but merged into the Union Budget and the distinction between Plan and Non Plan expenditure was done away with, shifting instead to a more meaningful distinction between capital versus revenue methodology.

The Budget 2017 is also unique in view of the few unprecedented events. The decision of the Government to implement demonetisation and embark on digitalisation at rapid pace coupled with implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) during the ensuing fiscal year would be close on the heels of the shake-up because of uncertain and politically changed environment.

With the imminent arrival of GST, the Finance Minister preferred not to make many changes in current regime of Excise & Service Tax as the same would be replaced by GST soon.

Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi stated that the pro-poor Budget presented by Honourable Finance Minister, is an ‘Uttam’ Budget, devoted to strengthening the hands of the poor and has focused on all sectors and classes.

For sure, this Government was voted in on an expectation of good governance. That it has ushered in a transformation in the way India is run, cannot be denied. The strong leadership has brought back India to the discussion tables, if not centre-stage, be it on the Comity of Nations or the niche World Economic Forum. Right from the tough posture displayed in handling national security affairs or charting a new course in diplomatic relations, this Government has certainly shown resolve.

Admittedly, the crackdown on black money or the ‘Shuddhi Yatra’, as our PM terms it, has been a key hallmark of this regime. The relentless focus on measures to target income from illicit activities, be it counterfeiting or terror financing or corruption, has indeed been pervasive.

Great art is always a balancing act. But all art has both — an emotional content and an intellectual content. The Hon’ble Finance Minister pulled off a good balancing act in the Union Budget 2017-18 and the first impression of it seems to have let people euphoric. The Budget attempts to pave a path for the transformative shift towards growth following the overarching agenda of Transform, Energise and Clean India.

However, the Finance Bill 2017, has made many provisions of Direct Taxes applicable retrospectively, though the Hon’ble Finance Minister had promised that he will not resort to retrospective amendment. Further, a couple of judgements of the Supreme Court have been reversed by the Finance Bill, 2017. So, how and when the stabilisation and simplification would be achieved in tax laws?

Furthermore, the Finance Bill, 2017 proposes to introduce a section 271J to the Income-tax Act, 1961 by providing that an accountant or a merchant banker or a registered valuer furnishes incorrect information in a report or certificate, the Assessing Officer or CIT(As) may direct him to pay by way of penalty a sum of ₹ 10,000/- for each such report or certificate, but it is to be noted that no appeal has been provided against the proposed section.

In this issue, various eminent authors have analysed the important provisions of the Union Budget 2017-18, which would help the readers to understand the implications of the Budget. We are thankful to all the authors for their valuable contribution to this issue.

H. N. Motiwalla

Joint Editor

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