The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stamp duty up, tax on set-top box

Calcutta, July 28: The government today announced a string of tax hikes to net Rs 79 crore in the remaining months of the financial year and bring in some relief to the parched coffers.

The Assembly passed the West Bengal Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2003, in which finance minister Asim Dasgupta raised the stamp duties for registration of property in both urban and rural areas and announced a 3 per cent increase in turnover tax on cement, cosmetics and television sets.

“We have taken the measures to improve our economic condition at a time when we are going through a crisis. If we can raise the additional resources through the enhanced taxes, we will be able to shake off some of the debt burden,” said Dasgupta. He added that set-top boxes would be taxed when they are introduced.

Referring to the hike in turnover tax, the finance minister said it would not affect the retail prices of the commodities. The announcements will take effect after the bill receives the governor’s assent.

However, Dasgupta also announced a few sops. He relaxed the turnover tax on boulders, stonechips and sand from 12 per cent to 5 per cent in a move being seen as a bid to encourage real estate business.

The minister also slashed the professional tax paid by public phone booth-owners and small savings agents. The PCO-owners will have to pay an annual professional tax of Rs 1,000 instead of Rs 2,500. Small saving agents who earn up to Rs 8,000 every month will now be exempted from paying the tax. Those earning over Rs 8,001 and up to Rs 24,000 every month will have to pay a yearly professional tax of Rs 216. Thereafter, it will be payable according to slabs.

Dasgupta also announced cushions for exporters and those interested in setting up multiplexes. For new multiplexes, the finance minister declared a four-year tax holiday and exemption of electricity duty to industrial units at export processing zones (which have been renamed Special Economic Zones).

The finance minister said an owner of more than three cinemas in different locations will be regarded as the owner of a multiplex. He added that those who would renovate existing cinema halls and run them as multiplex theatres would get a tax holiday for three years.

“But multiplex theatre owners will have to conform to certain norms drawn up by the government. For instance, they will not be able to reduce the seating capacity and will have to exhibit films in Bengali, Nepali or Santhali for at least 30 days in a year,” said Dasgupta.

At least five private parties, including a Bengali from Jakarta, have shown interest in setting up multiplexes in the state, the minister told the Assembly. The Confederation of Indian Industry and the Indian Chamber of Commerce have welcomed the initiatives taken by the government in this regard, he reminded.

Explaining the definition of a multiplex theatre, Dasgupta said, in Calcutta, the owner of three cinemas with capacity for 1,000 people in each hall would be regard as a multiplex owner. In the districts, the owner of three cinemas with a capacity of 800 in each hall would be considered the owner of a multiplex.

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