COMPANIES TO GET FRINGE BENEFIT FROM Q4 ADVANCE TAX, CAN ADJUST FBT PAID AGAINST TAX DUE IN MARCH

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THE government will allow companies to adjust the fringe benefit tax (FBT) paid by them against the advance tax due in the March quarter, reducing the hazard of claiming a refund and slightly improving profits at a time of rising costs, said an incometax department official.

"The Central Board of Direct Taxes has taken an in-principle decision to allow corporates to adjust FBT paid in the first quarter against their advance tax,” he said.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in his July 2009 Budget scrapped FBT, seen by many as more of a trouble than of help, in significantly raising the government’s revenues. But corporates have paid in advance, a portion of the tax due, in the first quarter that ended in June. It was replaced with a perquisites tax on employees receiving such benefits. FBT, introduced by former finance minister P Chidambaram in 2005, is a kind of a presumptive tax on expenditure incurred by a company on its employees.

Under FBT, some of the benefits such as travel and hotel stay given by an employer to the staff are deemed to be fringe benefits and taxed accordingly. Companies had to pay a 20% tax on such expenses. A circular will soon be issued clarifying the issue on the adjustment, said the official who did not want to be identified. The government has so far collected about Rs 2,000 crore in the current financial year through the levy, he said.

Just like the corporate advance tax, FBT also had to be paid in four instalments in June, September, December and March.

However, loss-making companies and others such as liaison offices of foreign companies, which do not otherwise have a tax liability, will have to claim a refund.

Although the decision may not add significantly to profits, it could bring in a slight relief for corporates.

It is not yet clear how the individual salaried taxpayers who have paid FBT for gains such as employee stock options (Esops) will adjust it.

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