Abolition of levy of wealth-tax under Wealth-tax Act, 1957

Wealth-tax Act, 1957 (‘the WT Act’) was introduced w.e.f. 01.04.1957 on the recommendation of Prof. Nicholas Kaldor for achieving twin major objectives of reducing inequalities and helping the enforcement of Income-tax Act through cross checks. Accordingly, all the assets of the assessees were taken into account for computation of net-wealth. The levy of wealth-tax was thoroughly revised on the recommendation of Tax Reform Committee headed by Raja J. Chelliah vide Finance Act, 1992 with effect from 01.04.1993. The Chelliah Committee had recommended abolition of wealth-tax in respect of all items of wealth other than those which can be regarded as unproductive forms of wealth or other items whose possession could legitimately be discouraged in the social interest.

Currently, wealth-tax is levied on an individual or HUF or company, if the net wealth of such person exceeds Rs.30 lakh on the valuation date, i.e. last date of the previous year. For the purpose of computation of taxable net wealth, only few specified assets are taken into account.

The actual collection from the levy of wealth-tax during the financial year 2011-12 was Rs.788.67 crore and during the financial year 2012-13 was Rs.844.12 crore only. The number of wealth-tax assessee was around 1.15 lakh in 2011-12. Although only a nominal amount of revenue is collected from the levy of wealth-tax, this levy creates a significant amount of compliance burden on the assessees as well as administrative burden on the department. This is because the assessees are required to value the assets as per the provisions of Wealth-tax Rules for computation of net wealth and for certain assets like jewellery, they are required to obtain valuation report from the registered valuer. Further, the assets which are specified for levy of wealth-tax, being unproductive, such as jewellery, luxury cars, etc. are difficult to be tracked and this gives an opportunity to the assessees to under report/under value the assets which are liable for wealth-tax. Due to this, the collection of wealth-tax over the years has not shown any significant growth and has only resulted into disproportionate compliance burden on the assessees and administrative burden on the department. It is, therefore, proposed to abolish the levy of wealth tax under the Wealth-tax Act, 1957 with effect from the 1st April, 2016. It is also proposed that the objective of taxing high net worth persons shall be achieved by levying a surcharge on tax payer earning higher income as levy of surcharge is easy to collect & monitor and also does not result into any compliance burden on the assessee and administrative burden on the department. The details regarding levy of enhanced surcharge on this account are given under the heading “Rates of Income-tax”. It is also proposed that information relating to assets which is currently required to be furnished in the wealth-tax return shall be captured by suitably modifying income-tax return.

This amendment will take effect from 1st April, 2016 and will, accordingly, apply in relation to the assessment year 2016-17 and subsequent assessment years.

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NOTE ON RELEVANT CLAUSES  OF FINANCE BILL 2015

Clause 79 of the Bill seeks to amend section 3 of the Wealth-tax Act relating to charge of wealth-tax.

The existing provisions contained in sub-section (2) of the aforesaid section provides that wealth-tax in respect of net wealth of every individual, Hindu undivided family and company is charged at the rate of one per cent. of the amount of taxable net wealth for the assessment year commencing on 1st day of April, 1993 and subsequent assessment years.

It is proposed to amend the said sub-section (2) so as to provide that wealth-tax shall not be charged in respect of assessment year commencing on or after 1st day of April, 2016.

This amendment will take effect from 1st April, 2016 and will, accordingly, apply in relation to the assessment year 2016-17 and subsequent years.

EXTRACT OF RELEVANT CLAUSES FROM FINANCE BILL 2015

79. Wealth-tax

In section 3 of the Wealth-tax Act, 1957, in sub-section (2), with effect from the 1st day of April, 45 2016, after the words, figures and letters “from the 1st day of April, 1993”, the words, figures and letters “but before the 1st day of April, 2016” shall be inserted.

( Compiled by Taxguru Team)

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