Startups will never be harassed, says Goyal

Union Minister for Railways and Commerce & Industry Piyush Goyal. PTI file photo

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday assured that start-ups will never be harassed and that the government is taking steps to promote them.

"I assure you that start-ups will never be harassed. They have to do the limited activity of registering themselves so that good law is not misused by a few people," he said here at a function.

The minister said the government has come out with clarifications that startups would not be asked any questions if they are registered with and recognised by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

"Few investments which are genuine investments in startups possibly got notice probably seeking some information. I think there is no harm in giving that information," Goyal said.

According to him, there is no such thing called "angel tax".

He said the issue of angel tax came up at first place, "because we have thousands and lakhs of shell companies which the Modi government de-recognised and on which we are taking action, where hawala operators used to create fake equity capital by issuing shares at a huge premium with no business activity at all and using that for money laundering".

Earlier, several startups made representations to the government about receiving notices from the Income Tax Department. They had claimed it was getting difficult for them to operate when the taxman was breathing down their neck.

The government launched the 'Startup India' initiative on January 16, 2016, to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship. It also provided them with certain tax benefits and other incentives.

As many as 24,250 startups have been recognised by the department and they are eligible for different tax incentives.

Goyal also released the High Level Advisory Group (HLAG) report on promoting exports and investments at a function organised by industry body CII.

He assured that India would always protect its strategic and economic interests while engaging in multilateral talks.

He urged people to talk, argue and understand issues and not indulge in creating fear psychosis as the government would never sign on any trade agreement without consultations.

The HLAG report has suggested several steps to boost the country's goods and services exports. It has made specific recommendations for sectors such as pharma, electronics and textiles.

For electronics, it has suggested shifting from a tariff-based policy to an incentive-based policy for manufacturing, incentives based on certain specified criteria such as technology, manufacturing capacity, and employment generation.

Tax holiday for a considerable period, under Indian tax laws, to incentivise investment by domestic as well as foreign enterprises in high-end electronics has also been suggested.

Other recommendations include the creation of a single ministry for the regulation of medical devices -- right from import and manufacture, up until pricing and sale of the products -- for easing the compliance burden for both domestic as well as foreign manufacturers.

Besides, the report has called for the creation of a pan-India Tourism Board, according to infrastructure status to tourism and amend tax rates.

It has also recommended issuance of 'Elephant Bonds' wherein people declaring undisclosed income would have to mandatorily invest a specified amount in these securities.

"The government may introduce a one-time disclosure scheme for declaring undisclosed foreign income and assets and pay tax on such undisclosed income/ asset at the rate of 15 per cent.

"The scheme should also provide for locking 40 per cent of the funds in Elephant Bonds...for a period of 20-30 years," the report said.

As per the report, the tariff regime needs to be simplified, rationalised and made more predictable.

"Reduce the number of basic customs duty rates for industrial products. This should be done in a phased manner, mostly over five years. After the five-year transition period, tariff rates could be 0, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 per cent," it added.

In certain very limited number of cases, particularly new technology products, basic customs duties may need to be increased to provide domestic industry with time to become competitive, the report said. 

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