CASBAA & IBF request FM Chidambaram to roll back tax hike on tech services

MUMBAI: The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) and The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) have requested the Indian government to roll back the increase in taxation on royalty and fees for technical services in the hands of a non-resident as proposed in The Financial Bill 2013.

In a letter addressed to finance minister P. Chidambaram, the two associations have stated that Section 115A of The Income Tax Act, 1961, levies gross taxes of 10 per cent on royalty and technical services. The latest proposal by the finance ministry proposes to take this up to 25 per cent. Along with surcharge and an education cess, the effective rate comes to 27.037 per cent. When grossed up with other related levies, it will actually amount to 33 per cent, they say.

Their letter to the finance minister points out that the proposed increased levy will have an impact on the Indian and international satellite and broadcasting sectors as the services they provide come under “royalty and fees for technical services.”

India has constrained satellite capacity and it is highly dependent on foreign satellites. A recent study has shown that international satellites are providing roughly 60 per cent of the broadcasting capacity for India’s satellite DTH broadcasters.

The associations have reiterated in the letter that international satellite operators will per force have to pass on the increased operational cost to their Indian broadcasting and other clients, as their margins are not fat enough to absorb the impact of higher taxation. DTH operators, broadcasters who deliver channels to India’s 90 million cable TV homes and cable TV operators will also in turn, then pass on the increased costs on to their subscribers. The cascading effect could be substantial, the two associations warn.

“We believe that a good tax policy should aim at moderate rates, particularly in industries providing an engine for India’s growth. An increase to the levels proposed in the bill would be counter-productive; it would affect not only the operators providing satellite services, but a whole host of related sectors – including broadcasting, media, telecommunications and IT, which have been spearheading India’s growth story in recent years. Hence the increase should be rolled back,” the letter highlights.

It concludes by saying that “any future increases that might be considered should be phased in, with a transition period of at least five years, to allow taxpayers time to plan ahead and to avoid any one-off uplift which could force the closure of some small operators.”

Will the finance minister give a kind ear to Casbaa & IBF?

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