The Budget 2008-09 could bring some cheer to a host of self-employed professionals, like engineers and architects, with the likely increase in the threshold for tax deducted at source (TDS) for these professionals. The existing ceiling for deduction of tax at source is Rs 20,000. As per section 194J of the Income Tax Act, 1961, if the fee for professional or technical service contract undertaken by any of these professionals is more than Rs 20,000, the contract awardee has to deduct tax at the rate of 10%. The government had hiked the rate of TDS from 5% to 10%.
With this hike in rate of TDS, these professionals have to get substantially higher amount of tax deducted when they receive their fees. Though this amount can be claimed as a refund if they do not have a tax liability, it could create working capital problems for them, especially smaller ones.
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The limit was last revised in 1994. There has been a demand for raising the ceiling for some time now. Several industry bodies have sought indexation of the limits, thresholds fixed under the Income Tax Act. The limit is particularly low, especially after the introduction of service tax which is now levied at the rate of 12% (plus cess).
However, there could be some bad news in store for contractors. The government may revise upwards the TDS rates in some other categories. Contractors or subcontractors including broadcasting, telecasting, those offering plane chartering services under section 195(C) of the Income Tax Act may be hiked from 2% at present. The threshold for deduction of TDS under this category is also Rs 20,000.