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A Guide to India’s Special Economic Zones

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By Samuel Wrest

India’s special economic zones (SEZs) are certain localities which offer tax and other incentives to their resident businesses. Although India’s SEZs are relatively new, they now form a significant part of its appeal as both a sourcing and manufacturing destination. In this article, we examine how these zones function and highlight some of the key information relevant for companies considering setting up in an Indian SEZ.

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India’s Coal Industry Moves Towards Privatization Amidst Trade Union Protests

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DELHI – The Indian government on Monday approved a decree that will denationalize its coal mining industry and open it up to privatization, drawing equal amounts of praise and criticism from various quarters.

India’s coal industry forms an integral part of its energy sector, generating more than half of the country’s power supply every year. Although no specific date has been given on when the privatization process will begin, mines owned by some of India’s most well-known companies , such as Power Ltd and Jindal Steel, will eventually have to go up for sale. Commercial mining will be permitted, and an electronic auction for the mines will likely take place before the end of the current year.

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Understanding Income Tax Returns in India

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By Samuel Wrest

Early last month, the Indian Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) extended the deadline for furnishing a tax audit report to November 30. The move was met with a great deal of confusion by tax practitioners in India, who were quick to point out that, in most cases, the tax audit report must be completed before an income tax return – the deadline for which remained fixed at September 30.

As a result, a number of high courts in several key Indian states, such as Gujarat, Chennai and Bombay, have ordered an extension of income tax returns to November 30 in order to have it coincide with the tax audit report deadline.

In this article, we highlight some of the key steps necessary for income tax returns, both for people wishing to meet the new November 30 deadline and as a general guide.

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Domestic Firms Head Investment Rush in India’s Fastest Growing State

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DELHI – A multitude of big Indian companies have this week announced plans to invest in Madhya Pradesh. The state, which recently overtook Bihar to become the fastest growing in India, is set to see investment in a variety of different sectors, providing a further boost to its already rising GDP.

The largest investment is to come from Reliance Group, a multi-industry conglomerate that is India’s biggest private sector enterprise. On Thursday, Reliance’s chairman Anil Ambani announced that the group will invest Rs. 60,000 crore into Madhya Pradesh’s coal, power, cement, and telecom businesses by 2020, doubling the amount it is currently investing. The stated target of the massive firm is to make Madhya Pradesh India’s “digital capital” by the middle of next year.

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The Indian Super League: Destined for Economic Success, or Doomed to Fail?

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Op-Ed Commentary: Samuel WrestISL

Next weekend, India will launch the inaugural season of its Indian Super League (ISL). Three years in the making, the ISL will become the country’s second professional football league after the much-maligned I-League, but has high hopes of succeeding in several key areas where the I-League has largely failed.

Principal amongst the ISL’s ambitions is to loosen the stranglehold that cricket currently has over India’s sports industry and, importantly, become a prosperous business model, a financial success, and a potential major incentive for foreign investment in India.

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Electronics Industry Set for Investment as Part of “Make in India” Campaign

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Op-Ed Commentary: Kangkyu Lee

Indian leaders are hard at work establishing cordial business relations and foreign investment-agreements to further Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new “Make in India” campaign. As part of the campaign, and in order to expedite India’s transition to a high-tech, developed economy, Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is championing plans to create a “Digital India.”

Last week, Prasad addressed German electronics juggernauts Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Elektronikindustrie (ZVEI) in a personal visit to inaugurate Modi’s “Make in India” policy. These initiatives are part of a new wave of government policies aimed at encouraging foreign electronics and high-tech companies to invest and establish new branches in India.

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Can India’s Newly Drafted Road Safety Laws Help Boost its Economy?

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Op-Ed Commentary: Benedict Lynn

Since his landslide election victory in May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been attempting to eliminate the various obstacles that have thus far impeded India’s economic development. The new government’s emphasis has ostensibly been on the country’s underdeveloped infrastructure, and billions of dollars have accordingly been invested into its railways in an ambitious Chinese-style revival plan. India’s notoriously dangerous and congested roads, however, have until now eluded any significant parliamentary scrutiny.

On Saturday, the Modi administration released their draft bill on road safety laws. Widely thought to have been motivated by the death of senior BJP minister Gopinath Munde in a road accident in June, the bill proposes setting up an independent agency for road safety and vehicle regulation; a national authority that will have the power to recall vehicles which do not adhere to a required set of standards. Furthermore, a western-style penalty point system that includes severe fines and, in some cases, imprisonment, has also been proposed.

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India Continues Tax Dispute With Cyprus and Mauritius

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Op-Ed Commentary: Samuel Wrest

India has seemingly reached an impasse with both Cyprus and Mauritius over the re-negotiation of their respective double taxation avoidance agreements (DTAA). For the former, the disagreement relates to Cyprus’s status as a notified jurisdictional area (NJA) in India, whilst for the latter, it pertains to the update of their existing tax treaty.

India and Cyprus signed their DTAA in 1994, and the island nation has regularly been one of India’s greatest sources of FDI, ranking seventh overall in the world. However, India last year blacklisted Cyprus as a NJA; a power the Indian government reserves for territories who do not sufficiently share tax-related information. Consequently, transactions between Indian taxpayers and Cyprian residents are now subject to the transfer pricing provisions of the Indian Tax Law (ITL), which increases the withholding tax rate by 30% and greatly complicates the administrative process involved.

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