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Budget 2022: Light at the End of the Tunnel or Dark Clouds for MSMEs?

The Union Budget 2022-23 highlighted that the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector is a vital pillar of the country’s economy. It contributes to approximately 45 per cent of India’s total manufacturing output, 40 per cent of exports, and almost 30 per cent of the national GDP. The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a major blow to the sector, especially to the small enterprises as they were abruptly forced to get on the tech wagon.[1] The unforeseen and instant digitization resulted in mounting costs at a time when they could barely sustain themselves. In light of this, the sector put their faith in the Union Budget for the FY 2022-23 for support, recovery and development.

Expectations of the MSME Sector from the Budget 

 

Previously, the government had introduced the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECGLS) to provide support to the micro, small and medium enterprises amidst the pandemic. This led to an increase in the expectations of the MSME sector from the 2022 Budget. They anticipated that the government would provide benefits such as simplifying taxation procedures, credit lending, and investment incentives.

 

Changes in the Credit Framework

 

Under the aforementioned ECGLS scheme, MSMEs enjoyed a reduction in the interest rates on the loans and an enhancement in the loan procurement process.[2] This was well-received as it helped the MSMEs to recover from the clutches of the pandemic. 

It is pertinent to note that occasionally the  MSMEs have to extend their credit lines and bear the brunt of delayed payments.[3] This adversely impacts the growth of their business. Due to this, they need measures to facilitate their business decisions by improving the credit lending framework.

Due to the pandemic, a number of MSMEs were unable to utilize the benefits provided by the government. This was primarily because, either the enterprises weren’t registered as MSMEs or they did not have a secured bank account.

The cash flow was also largely impacted by COVID-19. To minimize the challenges put forth by this issue, provisions for banks to lend more to MSMEs were required. This in turn would have ensured a steady supply with the NBFs and would have further enabled them to lend credit to MSMEs.

Further, it was expected that the Special Credit Linked Capital Subsidy Scheme, which was announced in 2021, would extend to enterprises with a turnover of fewer than 5 crores. The institutional credit provided under the scheme would have allowed the smaller enterprises to procure equipment for their technological development.  Ergo, certain key changes were expected in the credit framework. 

It had also been suggested that retail loans to MSMEs should be treated differently from corporate loans.[4] This suggestion came in light of the Reserve Bank of India’s notification in November, where it clarified its asset classification norms. Under this notification, the RBI asked the lenders to classify the borrower accounts as a Special Mention Account (SMA) and a Non-performing Asset (NPA) as per the day-end process.[5]

The budget was also expected to come to grips with the problem of willful defaulters and rising NPAs in the given sector by introducing appropriate policies.

 

Reduction of Taxes

 

The government was expected to provide a considerable reduction in duties and taxes. This would have encouraged the MSMEs to invest more in capital goods and in turn produce more. To further tap the manufacturing capabilities of the MSME sector, it was suggested that the Long Term Capital Gains Tax on Private Equity should be reduced. Additionally, more subsidies should have been introduced on the imports of Capital Goods.[6] The MSMEs also hoped for GST rationalization and some relaxation in the compliance burden. This would have helped in increasing the ease of doing business.[7]

 

Incentives for Investment

 

For the inducement of investment in the sector, the MSMEs pinned their hopes on the government to provide incentives such as tax benefits for the angel investors and contrive a policy to ensure that the sector is adequately funded.[8]

 

Steps Towards Digitization

 

Furthermore, it was suggested that the government should have aimed to bring the digital revolution in the backward areas as well.  For this, the government should have promoted digital payments through certain incentives. Further, it was expected that the government would provide technological solutions to enable the MSMEs to increase their production and compete better.

 

Other Incentives

 

To address the environmental concerns, steps to promote low carbon manufacturing among the MSMEs were awaited. The 2022 Budget was expected to provide support in this regard. This would have provided the Indian economy to tackle environmental concerns as well as enable the  MSMEs to explore innovative solutions.[9]

 

Budget 2022: A Beacon of Hope for the MSME Sector? 

 

In the 2022 Budget, critical factors concerning MSMEs were targeted. These include raw material, credit access, and input costs. Further, infrastructure and skill development support, digital services support, ease of doing business was assured and facilitation of ease of doing business was announced.

 

Input Costs

 

A reduction in the import tariffs on inputs was announced along with an increase in the tariffs on the import of end products. This would protect the MSMEs and make them more competitive. While there was a reduction in tariffs including customs duty and exemptions on input like steel scrap, a 7% duty on finished goods was announced. Further, the import tariffs for industries like textiles, leather products, and handicrafts were also reduced. Lastly, the steel scrap customs duty exemption, which was given last year has been extended for another year, providing relief to MSME steel producers.[10] Moreover, certain anti-dumping and countervailing duty on stainless steel and coated steel flat products, bars of alloy steel and high-speed steel were revoked in larger public interest considering prevailing high prices of metals. On the other hand, customs duty on umbrellas was raised to 20 per cent and exemption to parts of umbrellas was withdrawn. 

Removal of exemption on items which are or can be manufactured in India and providing concessional duties on the raw material that goes into the manufacturing of intermediate products will go many a step forward in achieving our objective of ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat. 

 

Access to Credit

 

The MSME sector would now be facilitated with an additional credit of Rs 2,00,000 crore under the credit guarantee scheme. The Emergency Credit Line Scheme has been extended till March 2023 and an increase in the guarantee cover has been announced, from Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 5,00,000 crore with an exclusive cover earmarked for hospitality.[11] Moreover, an announcement of the use of the post office infrastructure for 1.5 lakh additional physical banking facilities was made. Additionally, it was announced that 75 remote rural districts would now have digital banking units set up by commercial banks.[12] Credit Guarantee Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme will be revamped with funds infusion. This will stimulate additional credit of INR 2 lakh crore for MSEs and boost employment opportunities.

 

Infrastructure

 

Investments in multi-modal logistics parks and cargo terminals under the Gati Shakti scheme would facilitate domestic as well as global market connectivity. Thus, bringing down the cost of logistics for the sector and boosting export competitiveness. 

 

Start-ups

 

An announcement pertaining to the rationalization of capital gains surcharge was made, boosting the growth of startups. Individuals and FPOs would now be strengthened through the NABARD initiative.[13]

 

Skill Development

 

The national skill qualification framework will be oriented as per the varied industry needs. Hence, a positive initiative to bridge the gap of skilled human resources within the sector. 

 

Digital Services for the MSME Sector

 

The Union Budget 2022 declares that Udyam, e-Shram, National Career Service (NCS) and Aatamanirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping (ASEEM) portals will be interlinked, and their spectrum will be broadened. They will now serve as portals with live, organic databases, delivering G2C, B2C, and B2B services. These services will relate to credit facilitation, skilling, and recruitment to formalise the economy and improve entrepreneurial opportunities.

 

Efficiency and Competitiveness

 

For MSMEs to become more efficient, the Racing & Accelerating MSME Performance (RAMP) program with the outlay of Rs 6000 crore over 5 years will be rolled out, It aims to help the MSME sector to inculcate factors such as resilience, competitiveness and efficiency.

 

Surety Bonds in Public Procurements 

 

To reduce indirect costs for suppliers and work contractors, the use of surety bonds as a substitute for bank guarantees will be made acceptable in government procurements.

 

Concessional Corporate Tax 

 

Extension of the concessional corporate tax rate of 15 per cent by one more year — till March 2024 for newly incorporated manufacturing companies has also been rolled out. 

 

PLI for Solar PV Module 

 

Budget 2022 allocated an additional Rs 19,500 crore to boost the manufacturing of solar PV modules under the production linked incentive scheme. This is to facilitate domestic manufacturing for the ambitious goal of 280 GW of installed solar energy capacity by 2030, an additional allocation of Rs 19,500 crore for Production Linked Incentive for manufacturing of high-efficiency modules, with priority to fully integrated manufacturing units from polysilicon to solar PV modules, will be made.[14]

From the above discussion, it can be seen that the 2022 Budget did oblige with the expectations of the MSME Sector. There was an increase in the budgetary allocation for the given sector. The 2022 Budget successfully addressed certain key issues such as the lacuna in the credit framework, deficiency of infrastructure, etc.

However, at the same time, it neglected a number of key issues. It ignored the needs of the unregistered MSMEs, which almost comprise 90% of the sector.[15]Further, there was a reduction in the funds allocated to key schemes. There was no allocation under the 2022 Budget for the  Credit Linked Capital Subsidy and Technology Scheme. Further, a cut of 75.56%  has been made in the Technology Upgradation and Quality Certification.[16]

The Budget failed to go beyond the schemes while exploring ways to increase the infusion of capital in the sector. In spite of the existing schemes, many enterprises are still struggling to sustain themselves. Therefore, an additional boost should have been provided by the government. 

The government also failed to tackle increased unemployment in the sector. No measures were taken to extend the benefits of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to proprietorship firms. This was a serious drawback as the government failed to take the interest of more than ninety per cent of MSMEs into account amidst the pandemic.[17]

 

Some Hits Some Misses

 

The pandemic severely disrupted the MSME sector and in effect, the economic output of the country. The 2022 Budget did bring a ray of hope for the sector through schemes and incentives that shall foster a favourable ecosystem for new ventures and businesses. However, it paid little or no attention to the crucial issues that persisted. Failure to infuse funds into the market,  absolute abandonment of unregistered MSMEs and schemes aimed at supporting new enterprises while failing to extend plans to revive the existing units are some of the issues that demand a more insightful plan. Even though financial assistance extended during the pandemic did resolve the immediate sustenance issues, mounting loans and additional dues are some issues that need immediate redressal. Thus, it can be seen that India still needs a holistic approach to foster the growth of MSMEs, particularly the ones reeling under the debt of the pandemic.

References:

[1] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/sme-sector/why-technology-is-the-only-path-to-sustainedgrowth-for-msmes/articleshow/80281133.cms

[2] https://www.eclgs.com/

[3] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/sme-sector/what-can-msmes-expect-from-budget-2022/articleshow/89238615.cms

[4] https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/sme/msme-eodb-msme-budget-2022-expectations-three-key-areas-experts-say-fm-nirmala-sitharaman-must-address/2417204/

[5] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/117MCIRACP41D584957C3A43BCACEBC391B91A3FA0.PDF

[6]  http://www.businessworld.in/article/Expectations-Of-The-MSME-Sector/28-01-2021-370928/

[7] https://zeenews.india.com/economy/budget-2022-expectations-msmes-hope-for-gst-tds-reductions-relaxation-in-compliances-2429221.html

[8] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/sme-sector/what-can-msmes-expect-from-budget-2022/articleshow/89238615.cms

[9] https://indianexpress.com/article/business/budget/union-budget-2022-expectations-live-updates-what-market-experts-companies-industry-bodies-india-inc-economists-expect-7738854/

[10] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/sme-sector/govt-reduces-customs-duty-on-certain-steel-items-to-provide-relief-to-msmes/articleshow/80630835.cms?from=mdr

[11] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/sme-sector/budget-2022-23-eclgs-extended-to-march-2023-total-cover-up-to-rs-5l-crore/articleshow/89266189.cms?from=mdr

[12]  https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/doc/Budget_at_Glance/budget_at_a_glance.pdf 

[13] https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/doc/Budget_at_Glance/budget_at_a_glance.pdf

[14] https://knnindia.co.in/news/newsdetails/msme/msme-minister-launches-integrated-services-of-udyam-registration-portal

[15] https://www.financialexpress.com/budget/msme-eodb-budget-2022-focuses-on-ease-of-doing-business-for-msmes-but-fails-to-address-90-of-the-unorganised-sector/2423280/

[16] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/sme-sector/budget-2022-23-budgetary-allocation-rises-for-msmes-but-some-key-schemes-see-a-cut/articleshow/89276388.cms

[17] https://www.financialexpress.com/budget/msme-eodb-budget-2022-focuses-on-ease-of-doing-business-for-msmes-but-fails-to-address-90-of-the-unorganised-sector/2423280/

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The 2022 Budget did bring a ray of hope for the sector through schemes and incentives that shall foster a favourable ecosystem for new ventures and businesses. However, it paid little or no attention to the crucial issues that persisted. Failure to infuse funds into the market,  absolute abandonment of unregistered MSMEs and schemes aimed at supporting new enterprises while failing to extend plans to revive the existing units are some of the issues that demand a more insightful plan.

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OECD BEPS Framework: Recent Development

Addressing tax issues arising in the digital economy has been a priority of the international community since past several years. It aims to deliver a consensus-based solution and ensure Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) pay a fair share of tax in the jurisdiction they operate. After years of intensive negotiations, the Organization for Export Co-operation and Development (OECD) / G20 has recently introduced a major reform in the international tax framework for taxing the Digital Economy.

The OECD / G20 inclusive framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) [“IF”] has issued a Statement, on 8th October 2021, agreeing on a two pillar-solution to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy. There are 136 countries, including India, out of a total of 140 countries, representing more than 90% of the global GDP, that have agreed to this Statement. All members of the OECD countries have joined in this initiative and there are four G20 country members  (i.e. Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan & Sri Lanka) who have not yet joined. The broad framework of the two-pillar approach as per the Statement is as follows:

 

Pillar One

 

Introduction and applicability:

  • Pillar One focuses on fairer distribution of revenue and allocation of taxing rights between the market jurisdictions (where the users are located), based on a ‘’special purpose nexus’’ rule, using a revenue-based allocation.
  • Applicable to large MNEs with a global turnover in excess of  Euro 20 Billion and profitability above 10% (i.e. profit before tax)[1]. This revenue threshold is expected to be reduced to Euro 10 Billion, upon successful review, after 7 years of the IF coming into force.
  • The regulated financial services sector and extractive industries are kept out of the scope of Pillar One.

 

Calculation Methodology:

  • Such allocation will help determine the ‘’Amount A’’ under Pillar one.
  • The special-purpose nexus rule will apply solely to determine whether a jurisdiction qualifies for Amount A allocation based on which 25% of residual profits, defined as profit in excess of 10% of revenue, would be allocated to the market jurisdictions using a revenue-based allocation key.
  • Allocation vis-à-vis nexus rule will be provided for market jurisdictions in which the MNE derives at least Euro 1 Million  of revenue  [Euro 250,000  for smaller jurisdictions (i.e. jurisdiction having  GDP lower than Euro 40 Billion )]
  • Profits will be based on financial accounting income, subject to:
    • Minimal adjustments; and
    • Carry forward of losses
  • Detailed revenue sourcing rules for specific categories of transactions shall be developed to ensure that revenues are sourced to end market jurisdiction, where goods or services are consumed.
  • Safe harbour rules will be separately notified, so as to cap the allocation of baseline marketing and distribution profits of the MNE, which may otherwise already be taxed in the market jurisdiction.

 

Tax Certainty:

  • Rules will be developed to ensure that no double taxation of profits gets allocated to the market jurisdiction, by using either the exemption or the credit method.
  • Commitment has been provided to have mandatory and binding dispute prevention and resolution mechanisms to eliminate double taxation of Amount A and also resolve issues w.r.t transfer pricing and business profits disputes.
  • An elective binding dispute resolution mechanism for issues related to Amount A will be available only for developing economies, in certain cases. The eligibility of jurisdiction for this elective mechanism will be reviewed regularly.

 

Implementation:

  • Amount A will be implemented through a Multilateral Convention (MLC), which will be developed to introduce a multilateral framework for all the jurisdictions that join the IF.
  • The IF has mandated the Task Force on the Digital Economy (TFDE) to define and clarify the features of Amount A (e.g. elimination of double taxation, Marketing and Distribution Profits Safe Harbour), develop the MLC, and negotiate its content so that all jurisdictions that have committed to the Statement will be able to participate.
  • MLC will be developed and is expected to be open for signature in the year 2022, with Amount A expected to come into effect in the year 2023.
  • IF members may need to make changes to domestic law to implement the new taxing rights over Amount A. To facilitate consistency in the approach taken by jurisdictions and to support domestic implementation consistent with the agreed timelines and their domestic legislative procedures, the IF has mandated the TFDE to develop model rules for domestic legislation by early 2022 to give effect to Amount A.
  • The tax compliance will be streamlined allowing in-scope MNEs to manage the process through a single entity.

 

Unilateral Measures:

  • The MLC will require all parties to remove all digital service tax (DST) and other similar taxes (eg: Equalisation levy from India perspective) with respect to all companies and to commit not to introduce such measures in the future.
  • No newly enacted DST or other relevant similar measures will be imposed on any company from 8 October 2021 and until earlier than 31 December 2023 or coming into force of the MLC.

 

Pillar Two

 

Introduction:

 

  • Pillar Two consists of Global anti-Base Erosion Rules (GloBE) to ensure large MNEs pay a minimum level of tax thereby removing the tax arbitrage benefit which arises by artificially shifting the base from high tax jurisdiction to low tax jurisdiction with no economic substance.
  • Pillar Two is a mix of several rules, viz. (i) Income Inclusion Rule (IIR); (ii) Undertaxed Payment Rule (UTPR); and (iii) Subject to Tax Rule (STTR).
  • IIR imposes a top-up tax on parent entity in respect of low taxed income of a constituent entity
  • UTPR denies deductions or requires an equivalent adjustment to the extent low tax income of a constituent entity is not subject to tax under an IIR.
  • STTR is a treaty-based rule which allows source jurisdiction to impose limited source taxation on certain related-party payments subject to tax below a minimum rate. The STTR will be creditable as a covered tax under the GloBE rules.
  • There would be a 10-year transition period for exclusion of a certain percentage of the income of intangibles and payroll which will be reduced on year on year basis
  • GloBE provides de minimis exclusion where the MNE has revenue of less than Euro 10 Million and profit of less than Euro 1 Million and also provides exclusion of income from international shipping.

 

Calculation Methodology:

 

  • Pillar Two introduces a minimum effective tax rate (ETR) of 15% on companies for the purpose of IIR and UTPR and would apply to MNEs reporting a global turnover above Euro 750 Million under country-by-country report.
  • The IIR allocates top-up tax based on a top-down approach, subject to a split-ownership rule for shareholdings below 80%. The UTPR allocates top-up tax from low-tax constituent entities, including those located in the Ultimate Parent Entities (UPE) jurisdiction. However, MNEs that have a maximum of EUR 50 million tangible assets abroad and that operate in no more than 5 other jurisdictions, would be excluded from the UTPR GloBE rules in the initial phase of their international activity.
  • IF members recognize that STTR is an integral part of Pillar Two for developing countries and applies to payments like interest, royalties, and a defined set of other payments. The minimum rate for STTR will be 9%, however, the tax rights will be limited to the difference between the minimum rate and tax rate on payment.
  • GloBE rules would not be applicable to Government entities, international organizations, non-profit organizations, pension funds or investment funds that are UPE of an MNE Group or any holding vehicle used by such entities, organizations, or funds.

 

Implementation:

  • Model rules to give effect to the GloBE rules are expected to be developed by the end of November 2021. These model rules will define the scope and set out the mechanics of the GloBE rules. They will include the rules for determining the ETR on a jurisdictional basis and the relevant exclusions, such as the formulaic substance-based carve-out.
  • An implementation framework that facilitates the coordinated implementation of the GloBE rules is proposed to be developed by the end of 2022. This implementation framework will cover agreed administrative procedures (e.g. detailed filing obligations, multilateral review processes) and safe-harbors to facilitate both compliance by MNEs and administration by tax authorities.
  • Pillar Two is proposed to be effective in the year 2023, with the UTPR coming into effect in the year 2024.

 

FM Comments :

 

With the introduction of the OECD/G20 inclusive framework on BEPS, OECD expects revenues of developing countries to go up by 1.5-2% and increase in overall reallocation of profits to developing countries of about USD 125 Billion. India, being a huge market to large MNEs, has always endorsed this global tax deal. However, with the introduction of this framework, India will have to abolish all unilateral measures, such as equalization levy tax and Significant Economic Presence (digital permanent establishment) provisions. MNEs will also have to re-visit their structure to ring-fence their tax positions based on the revised digital tax norms.  This Statement lays down a road map for a robust international tax framework w.r.t taxing of the digital economy,  not restricted to online digital transactions.

References

[1] Calculated, using an “averaging mechanism”, details of which are awaited.

Image Credits: Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

With the introduction of the OECD/G20 inclusive framework on BEPS, OECD expects revenues of developing countries to go up by 1.5-2% and increase in overall reallocation of profits to developing countries of about USD 125 Billion. India, being a huge market to large MNEs, has always endorsed this global tax deal.

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