Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has unveiled a bouquet of 25 projects for rebuilding a modern Kerala from the ravages of the 2018 August floods and prescribed a regimen for fiscal consolidation and resource mobilisation by toning up tax administration in the budget for 2019-20 presented in the Assembly on Thursday.
A 1% calamity cess has been proposed on goods and services for two years to fund the rebuilding initiative. The additional revenue being generated from this is estimated at ₹600 crore.
The Minister hoped that the 25 key projects, which bear the indelible imprint of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) on them, would set the ground for the rebuilding drive.
The budget has a total outlay of ₹1.42 lakh crore. Even when the State is facing a grave resource crunch, the expected Plan outlay has been raised to ₹39,807 crore from ₹32,564 crore and provides for 1,200 schemes in all.
The cess would not be imposed on goods having GST below 5%, except gold. Small dealers who have availed themselves of composition tax would be excluded. The cess would be imposed on goods and services that fall in the tax bracket of 12%, 18% and 28%. To avoid a cascading effect, it would be levied only on the sale of goods and services within the State.
Guidelines have been laid for completing the about 25,000 tax assessments and 60,000 scrutinies under the Value Added Tax.
A comprehensive amnesty scheme has been announced to collect tax arrears amounting to ₹9,957 crore that falls under various Acts, including the Kerala General Sales Tax Act and the Kerala Value Added Tax Act. Assesees will have to withdraw appeals and cases to avail themselves of the scheme.
Local bodies will be permitted to collect 10% entertainment tax on cinema tickets. A one-time settlement scheme for vehicle owners having tax arrears for five years announced in 2016-17 will continue for a year. The practice of affixing ₹5 court fee stamp on applications and petitions before the Revenue Department has been scrapped.
The total government expenditure rose to 13.88% in comparison with the 2018-19 revised estimate. This was imperative to support the economy from falling into recession.
The 25 rebuilding projects will set the ground for a quantum leap in development. The budget has adopted a balanced approach for developing infrastructure facilities and also ensuring social security. But determined interventions are needed to reclaim the path of fiscal consolidation, Dr. Isaac said.