Search This Blog

April 16, 2015

ICDS Income Tax Standards

Income Computation and Disclosure Standards (ICDS), which have been notified on 31 March 2015.

ICDS apply to computation of income under the heads “profits and gains of business or profession” and “income from other sources”; they do not apply to computation of “salaries”, “income from house property” and “capital gains”. ICDS are not to be used for maintenance of books of account, but are to be used only for computation of income. ICDS apply from assessment year 2016-17 (i.e., financial year 2015-16), which means that they are already applicable for the current year. ICDS apply to all taxpayers following the mercantile system of accounting, and not those following the cash system. If ICDS are in conflict with the provisions of the income-tax Act, the provisions of the Act would prevail.

Most taxpayers may feel that ICDS may not affect them; that is, however, not true. Almost every taxpayer has income taxable under the head “income from other sources”—bank interest, interest on company deposits, interest on debentures and bonds, annuities, and so on. In order to ensure proper credit of tax deducted at source (TDS), most taxpayers offer such income to tax as and when it is due, i.e. on accrual or mercantile basis. That being the position, ICDS would apply to them. So,what are the provisions that could impact such ordinary taxpayers?

The first is the requirement of disclosure of accounting policies. Now, if ICDS do not apply to maintenance of books of account, where is the question of disclosure of accounting policies? If a taxpayer does not maintain books of account, is she required to disclose accounting policies? Does accounting policies mean the manner in which income from each source is offered to tax? If so, this would require significant paperwork. Would the e-returns, which currently have no space for any disclosures, permit such disclosures?

The revenue recognition ICDS applies to interest. It provides that interest shall accrue on time basis determined by the amount outstanding and the rate applicable. Till now, interest on debentures and bonds was accounted by most taxpayers by considering the due dates falling within the financial year. Now, each taxpayer would have to consider, for each such investment, what is the interest due for the broken period till the end of the year. Consider a bond where the interest was paid half-yearly on 30 June and 31 December. You would need to consider for 2015-16, besides the interest received in June 2015 and December 2015, the interest accrued for the period from 1 January to 31 March 2016. The following year, you would need to calculate the interest by excluding interest taxed in 2015-16 from interest received in 2016-17, besides adding the interest accrued from January 2017 to March 2017. If you have 10 different types of bonds, you would need to do 10 such computations—one for each type of bond.

At least on bank fixed deposits and recurring deposits, one can obtain a certificate of accrued interest from the bank. But on your bank savings account, the bank does not provide any such certificate. If the interest is not credited by the bank on 31 March, you would need to compute the interest for the remaining period, and offer it to tax. How many taxpayers can compute the interest on their savings accounts balances? This provision would only result in more work for taxpayers or their chartered accountants and tax consultants, without any real benefit to the tax department, as all it would finally result in will be bringing forward taxation of the same income to an earlier year.

Taxpayers working on retainership basis or professionals would be worst hit, if they don’t follow cash basis of accounting. They have to compute their work in progress, which consists of cost of labour and staff, and appropriate overhead expenses, and offer that to tax. Besides, they have to make various disclosures, such as the method used to determine the stage of completion of service. There would be many more such issues faced by taxpayers under the ICDS.

Why does the tax department have to put taxpayers through such torture? Rather than trying to encourage voluntary filing by taxpayers, is the government trying to discourage them? Most taxpayers would probably end up preferring to follow the cash method of accounting, at least for certain sources of income, rather than comply with such absurd regulatory requirements, since one can have different methods of accounting for different sources of income.

That would create another problem—that of ensuring proper credit for TDS in the year in which the relevant income is offered to tax. Tax is deducted in the year of credit or accrual, and credit for TDS is to be given in the year that the income is offered to tax. The tax department has still not been able to ensure a smooth and proper credit in cases where tax is deducted in one year and credit is to be given in another year. Innumerable rectification applications for such incorrect tax credit are pending. Would it then be a case of from the frying pan into the fire?

Perhaps, the concept of ICDS itself is premature. ICDS can easily be amended by a notification, without amendment of the tax laws. This would make our tax laws even more prone to change—as it is, our tax laws are the most frequently changed laws in India.
We need stability in tax laws. The government should consider amending the tax laws once and for all to bring in changes desired, rather than implement them through ICDS, which would be a parallel law.
By CA Gautam Nayak

No comments:

Post a Comment