“THOSE having annual income up to Rs. 5 lakh are not required to pay any income tax”. They include self-employed as well as small traders, salary earners, and senior citizens, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman clarified in her maiden Union Budget for 2019-20 fiscal. The effective tax rates for the higher income group individuals having taxable income from Rs. 2 crore to Rs. 5 crore and Rs. 5 crore and above is proposed to be increased by around 3 percent and 7 percent respectively. “In view of rising income levels, those in the highest income bracket need to contribute more to the Nation’s development”. Thanking the taxpayers, she said that they are playing a major role in Nation building. Due to slew of efforts taken by the Government, the direct tax revenue has significantly increased by over 78 percent from Rs. 6.38 lakh crore in Financial Year 2013-14 to around Rs. 11.37 lakh crore in Financial Year 2018-19. The Minister stated that the increase has been significant in last couple of years. The Direct Tax revenue grew by 19.13 percent to Rs. 10, 02, 741 crore in 2017-18 (Rs. 8, 41, 713 crore in 2016-17) and by 13.46 percent in 2018-19. The number of taxpayers also increased by approximately 48 percent over the period 2013-14 to 2017-18, from 5.71 crore taxpayers to 8.4 crore taxpayers, due to various initiatives and taxpayer outreach programmes undertaken by the Government. he General Budget 2019-20 proposes to make return filing compulsory for persons, who have deposited more than Rs. 1 crore in a current account in a year, or who have expended more than Rs. 2 lakh on foreign travel or more than Rs. 1 lakh on electricity consumption in a year or who fulfils the prescribed conditions, in order to ensure that persons who enter into high value transactions also furnish return of income. It is also proposes to provide that a person whose income becomes lower than maximum amount not chargeable to tax due to claim of rollover benefit of capital gains shall also be required to furnish the return.The GOI proposes to issue Aadhaar Cards to Non-Resident Indians having passports for enabling them to avail certain facilities in their native country and open four new Embassies for promoting bilateral and multilateral relations. Iconic Tourism Sites are being developed into world class tourist destinations and for this purpose, Indian Development Assistance Scheme (IDEAS) will be revamped, she said. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said it is also proposed to launch a Mission that will integrate India’s traditional artisans and their creative products with global markets. Necessary patents and geographical indicators will be obtained for them. India’s soft power is appreciated in so many different ways. In the last three years, Yoga has been practiced in large numbers on International Yoga Day in 192 countries. Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite Bhajan “Vaishnav Jana To Tene Kahiye” was sung in 40 countries by their lead artists. The annual “Bharat Ko Janno” quiz competition is sought after as an event to participate by not only NRIs but also foreigners, the Union Minister said. “To give further impetus to India’s growing influence and leadership in the international community, Government decided to open Indian Embassies and High Commissions abroad in countries where India does not have a Resident Diplomatic Mission as yet”. In March 2018, Government approved opening of 18 new Indian diplomatic Missions in Africa (in Rwanda; Djibouti; Equatorial Guinea; Guinea; Republic of Congo; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Mauritania; Cape Verde; Sierra Leone; Chad; Sao Tome and Principe; Eritrea; Somalia; Guinea Bissau; Swaziland; Liberia; and, Togo). Of these, five Embassies have already been opened in Rwanda, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Guinea, and Burkina Faso in Financial Year 2018-19.The Finance Minister said that in line with its ancient wisdom, India has always pursued a policy of economic cooperation with countries through bilateral and regional coordination. Mindful of India’s position as the sixth largest economy, the Government will look at alternative development models which include private sector equity, multilateral financing, contributions from corporate and non-residents. The Finance Minister proposed that the IDEAS scheme will be revamped during the current financial year. Indian Development Assistance Scheme (IDEAS) provides concessional financing for projects and contributes to infrastructure development and capacity building in the recipient developing countries. The Finance Minister said that the Government is developing 17 iconic tourism sites into world class tourist destinations which will serve as a model for other tourism sites. These sites would enhance visitor experience which will lead to increase visits of both domestic and international tourists at these destinations. Finance Minister announced that with the objective of preserving rich tribal cultural heritage, a digital repository is being developed where documents, folk songs, photos and videos regarding their evolution, place of origin, lifestyle, architecture, education level, traditional art, folk dances and other anthropological details of the tribes in India will be stored. The repository will be further enriched and strengthened. In the enclosed picture above, Sitharaman is seen with her MOS Anurag Thakur and senior officials after finalizing the budget proposals.