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Tax stability is a positive sign

Crypto regulation is here, at least as far as taxation goes
Representational image.
Representational image.

Dhirendra Kumar   |   Published 02.02.22, 03:45 AM

Years ago, everyone used to have a lot to say about Union budgets. The prices and duties of everything used to change by varying amounts and the impact on every household budget and every corporate’s accounts was something unique. Whether it was biscuits or footwears or steel or fertiliser and of course cigarettes, the prices would change.

Now, with indirect taxes being part of GST, and petro prices tracking the markets, and custom rates highly stable, there’s nothing much to say. A couple of hours after the budget papers are released, and the politicians having spouted their pre-decided reactions, it’s mostly over. About the only point of interest that remains — and that’s my own area — are changes that will impact personal finance and tax-saving investments. On that too, this year’s budget maintains complete silence.

I guess that’s a good thing. Stability in personal finance is something highly desirable and even though there are things that can be improved in the tax-savings laws (there always are) staying on the current course is not a bad choice by any means. As far as the personal budgets of most people are concerned, the fact that the Budget does not contain anything that is overtly inflationary will likely prove to be the biggest positive in the months to come.

Of course, that does not include the unfortunate ones whose personal finances are now entangled in what have now been officially named ‘virtual digital assets’. Crypto regulation is here, at least as far as taxation goes. The tax is heavy indeed and designed to ensure that it will be hard to make money out of trading crypto. Profits will be taxed at 30 per cent while losses cannot be set off. Importantly, these will be taxed as income (but at the highest slab) and not as capital gains. This is a novelty — something being an asset but profits from its sale being income. However, for a novel challenge like crypto this is a good solution.

The drafting of the law has been carefully done and takes into account the fact that crypto can be sold off against other digital assets and also used to buy non-digital assets. If you buy crypto and then use it to buy some other non-crypto asset, say on a foreign website, then it appears that this will be treated as a sale of crypto with payment received in kind and taxed as such. This pretty much puts paid to any practical use of cryptocurrencies by law-abiding individuals.

Of course there are other aspects of crypto regulation that need to be tackled urgently, for example the ballooning activities and lack of regulation of self-styled crypto ‘exchanges’. There’s also the elephant in the room, which is the fact that apart from speculation the actual use of cryptocurrencies is only for criminal activities such as ransomware, terror funding and such but that’s a separate story.

Another thing that catches the eye is the relentless focus on extending the physical and digital infrastructure in the country. Within the year, all post offices in the countries will be connected to the core banking system with ATM and fund transfer access. This extension of the financial system will have a far greater impact than any minor tinkering here or there.

Dhirendra Kumar is CEO of Value Research Online

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