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NEW DELHI: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that with every annual budget, the Centre has been putting more money in the hands of the middle-class tax payer.
“Step by step, in every budget, I have been putting surplus money in the hands of the middle-class tax payer,” Jaitley said at a post-budget press conference.
He recounted how he has been regularly scaling back the tax burden borne by the individual tax payer.
“Last year, we’d reduced the tax rate to 5 per cent for those with an income of less than 5 lakh per annum. This is the lowest anywhere in the world,” Jaitley said.
Earlier in the day, the finance minister presented the Union Budget 2018-19, which focuses on strengthening agriculture and rural development, besides other sectors of the country’s economy.
Jaitley said that this year’s budget recognises the contribution of the salaried class for the first time. It proposes to bring back standard deduction, which allows Rs 40,000 in lieu of transport allowance and medical expenses, giving a boost to the average salaryman’s take-home pay.
This decision to allow standard deduction shall significantly benefit the pensioners also, who normally do not enjoy any allowance on account of transport and medical expenses, he said.
Moreover, salaried taxpayers and pensioners will not need any documents or bills to claim the Rs 40,000 standard I-T deduction on travel and medical expenses, said CBDT chief Sushil Chandra.
However, there was no rejig in personal income tax slabs and rates in the budget. The surcharge of 10 per cent on income above Rs 50 lakh but less than Rs 1 crore will continue, as does the 15 per cent tax on income above Rs 1 crore.
Through Budget 2018, the government has given senior citizens additional avenues of investment and their earnings have been made tax free up to a certain extent, Jaitley said.
He was referring to the proposal which hikes interest income exemption on deposits with banks and post offices for senior citizens from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000. They will also be able to claim benefit of deduction up to Rs 50,000 annually on health insurance premium and general medical expenditure incurred.
Business, which is the only mode of income for a significant chunk of the country’s middle class, has been given a big break in the budget. By lowering the corporate tax rate by 5 per cent for businesses with a turnover of up to Rs 250 crore, the finance minister kept his promise (made in the 2015-16 budget) to slash corporate tax to 25 per cent.