Tax rate reduced: The tax rate for the Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh slab is now 5% from the 10% it was earlier. This will reduce your taxes by half. There was also a rebate (deduction from the tax to be paid) of Rs 5,000 if your income was Rs 5 lakh or less. This rebate is now Rs 2,500 if your income is Rs 350,000 or below. Effectively, if your taxable income is up to Rs 3 lakh, there will be no tax after this rebate. If you are in the higher tax slabs – i.e., taxable income over Rs 5 lakh – your tax outgo will reduce by Rs 12,875 because of the rate revision of the previous slab. For senior citizens aged between 60 to 80 years, the first slab of Rs 300,000 to Rs 500,000 will now have a 5% tax rate from the 10% it was before. For those in the following slabs, the tax outgo will reduce by Rs 10,300. For those above 80, income is exempt up to Rs 500,000. Their first taxable slab is Rs 500,000 to Rs 10,00,000. Tax for this slab is 20% as usual. On the flip side, surcharge for individuals earning more than Rs 1 crore is 15% while those earning between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore will pay a 10% surcharge.
Change in long-term holding period for house property: The long-term holding period for house property is now 2 years. It was 3 years earlier. You can thus claim indexation benefits on a shorter holding period. The tax rate remains at 20%. For debt funds and gold, the definition for long-term remains at 3 years. This is effective for those who sell property in 2017-18 and onwards.
Shift in indexation base year: There will be a new cost inflation index, directly affecting taxable capital gain. The base year for the index will move to 2000-01 from the 1980-81 it was earlier. Given that we have had several years of high inflation since, the effect of the new index on capital gains may be more pronounced.
More Sec 54EC options: Under this section, you can invest in bonds to reduce taxable capital gains on house property sale. Right now, there are only two institutions from which to buy bonds. You will now get more bond options from more institutions. Remember, though, that this may not necessarily translate into higher interest rates for you.
Setting off losses in income from house property: For income from house property, if the house was let out, there was no limit to the amount claimed as loss (that is, after all deductions from property income including interest). From 2017-18 onwards, only Rs 200,000 can be claimed as loss. You can carry over the remaining loss, if any, for subsequent years. This can, in effect stretch the period for which you can claim losses.
Merger of mutual fund plans: When two plans of a scheme merge, the holding period will be calculated from the date of the original investment and not the merger date. Until now, there was no clear rule on the holding period calculation. This is effective from this financial year.
RGESS no more: This source of deduction for new equity investors will be removed from 2017-18 onwards. Given the scheme’s complicated rules, RGESS was anyway a sub-optimal choice. Those who have made investments this year and in earlier years under the RGESS umbrella can continue to claim their deductions, as the benefits run for three years.