The decision to extend tax benefits that were set to expire in FY24 by a year will provide global investors and eligible companies with the clarity and certainty they need to enhance investment and operational planning, experts said. Eligible startups, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and units in the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) GIFT City can now avail of tax benefits or exemption till March 31, 2025.
“The stability in tax rates and the extension of the timeline are steps in the right direction in improving the investment climate,” said Sameer Gupta, tax leader at EY India.

“The extension of sovereign wealth funds and pension funds will facilitate new entrants and augur well for the national monetisation pipeline (NMP) of the government,” he added.

Tax benefits provided to sovereign wealth funds and pension funds are based on their dividends, interest and capital gains from infrastructure investment.

Sanjay Tolia, partner at Price Waterhouse & Co LLP, said the extension will bolster foreign investment into Indian infrastructure projects. Several sovereign wealth funds and pension fund managers told ET that while the tax benefits were announced in 2021, the entire process, from application to approval to securing a deal, was time-consuming and they believe a longer extension period would have been more favourable.

“Only when you have invested, you get benefits, so the government should have factored in the lag period and provided for a longer extension,” said one CEO of a fund on condition of anonymity.

In case of startups, the tax law provided for a 100% tax exemption on profits and gains derived by an eligible startup for any three consecutive years out of a period of ten years beginning from the year in which such startup is incorporated. In the interim budget, the benefit has been extended to startups incorporated until March 31, 2025. “It will encourage new startups to be set up in FY25,” said Rajesh Gandhi, partner at Deloitte.

PwC’s Tolia said it is clear that with India gaining prominence as a startup hub, the government is keen to encourage more startups. However, a startup founder told ETthat there aren’t many startups that qualify for this exemption — a 100% tax exemption on profits and gains derived by an eligible startup for any three consecutive years out of a period of ten years — due to the government’s challenging eligibility criteria and approval process, which serve as significant obstacles.

“The government should have relaxed some of the conditions so that a much broader set of startups could avail this exemption,” he said on condition of anonymity. The budget has allowed offshore banking units (OBUs) to set up investment divisions in GIFT City by March 31, 2025, to avail capital gains tax exemption on all securities except shares of Indian companies.

“This move will get OBUs based in GIFT City to scale up their operations and further grow their investment divisions,” Deloitte’s Gandhi said. The government’s announcement of a threeyear tax holiday for establishing new aircraft and leasing units in GIFT City is pivotal, considering the complexity of aircraft leasing processes. The payments in the nature of ‘royalty’ and ‘interest’ by aircraft and ship-leasing entities to non-residents are exempted and there is 100% deduction on income earned from transfer of an aircraft leased by such units with a condition that such entities commence operations prior to March 31, 2024.

“The extension for the IFSC units, especially in aircraft leasing, will be important given the growth aspirations of the Indian aviation industry,” EY’s Gupta said. PwC’s Tolia said the tax incentives are encouraging IFSC to compete with other international financial centres and attract foreign investment, capital, talent and technology into India

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