FM Sitharaman eases business rules to fight COVID-19

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled a series of relaxations for statutory and regulatory compliance matters on Tuesday and said the government will soon announce an economic package to absorb the negative impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

For income tax-related matters, she said the last date for filing returns pertaining to the financial year 2018-19 has been extended to June 30. For delayed payments, the interest rate has been reduced from 12 per cent to 9 per cent.

All GST returns for March, April, May and composition returns too have been extended till June 30.

At the same time, bank charges are being reduced for digital trade and transactions, said Sitharaman. There will be no minimum balance requirement fee imposed by banks and ATM withdrawal from any bank will be free for the next three months.

The date for Aadhaar-PAN linking and 'Vivad Se Vishwas Scheme' has also been extended till June 30 with no additional 10 per cent payment.

During this period, those paying indirect tax will not be charged any interest fee. The date to opt for the composition scheme also extended to June 30, said the Finance Minister.

"All compliances under Income Tax Act, Wealth Tax Act, Benami Transaction Act, Black Money Act, Vivaad Se Vishwaas, have been extended to June 30," she said.

To help the business and trading community, she said, the customs will be performing as an essential service 24x7 until June 30 even during the lockdown.

Sitharaman said the mandatory requirement for holding board meetings has been relaxed by 60 days for the next two quarters.

"For 2019-20, if independent directors of companies have not been able to hold even a single meeting, that will not be seen as a violation," she said.

For newly incorporated companies, there is a requirement to file a disclosure of commencement of business within six months. This is extended by six months.

If a company director does not comply with the minimum residency requirement, it will not be treated as a violation. The deadline to maintain a deposit reserve of 25 per cent by April has been extended to June 30.

On the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) rules, the threshold for default was raised to Rs one crore from Rs one lakh earlier.

"We are raising the default threshold to prevent triggering of IBC for MSMEs. If the situation does not improve till April 30, we can suspend sections 7, 9 and 10 for six months," said Sitharaman.

On the financial market, she said all regulators and the Ministry of Finance are working together to monitor the developments.

"SEBI has come up with certain guidelines to ensure stability in the stock market. We are consciously monitoring the stock market thrice in a day. A lot of inputs have come, the task force is also looking into them," she said.

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