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FM unveils income tax relief, small saving sops a year before elections

PNS | New Delhi

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday raised the personal income tax rebate limit, doled out sops on small savings and announced one of the biggest hikes in capital spending in the past decade as she did a tight rope walk in the Budget between staying fiscally prudent and meeting public expectations in the year before general elections.

The personal income tax rebate limit has been increased to Rs 7 lakh from the fiscal year starting April 1 under the new tax regime from the previous Rs 5 lakh. Tax slabs has been cut to five from seven earlier. Also, the maximum income tax rate has been reduced to about 39% from 42.7% after a reduction in the highest surcharge to 25% from 37%.

Besides, the deposit limit for senior citizen savings schemes has been doubled to Rs 30 lakh and for Monthly Income Account Scheme to Rs 9 lakh. A new small savings scheme for women, offering 7.5 per cent interest rate on deposits of up to Rs 2 lakh for a tenor of 2 years, has been announced.

Sitharaman’s fifth straight budget comes at a time when the economy is slowing due to global headwinds and there is a need for increased spending on social sectors as well as ramping up incentives for local manufacturing.

She also announced customs duty relief on mobile phone components, as well as on capital goods for lithium batteries and other such items to boost green energy and exports. This is the final full budget before the general elections in April/May next year.

An interim budget, called vote on account, is to be presented in February next year and the new government will present the full budget sometime in July 2024.For 2023-24, capital investment outlay has been increased steeply for the third year in a row by 33 per cent to Rs 10 lakh crore, which would be 3.3 per cent of the GDP. This will be almost three times the outlay in 2019-20.

Since coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has ramped up capital spending, including on roads and energy, while wooing investors through lower tax rates and labour reforms, and offering subsidies to poor households to clinch their political support.

“This Budget hopes to build on the foundation laid in the previous Budget, and the blueprint drawn for India@100,” Sitharaman said in her budget speech in Lok Sabha.

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