RBI reserves in focus as govt mulls tax shortfall

FILE PHOTO: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seal is pictured on a gate outside the RBI headquarters in Mumbai, India. REUTERS

Even as the government is staring at a tax shortfall in fiscal 2019, the focus seems to have shifted towards the Reserve Bank of India-appointed expert panel headed by former RBI governor Bimal Jalan on the outcome.

The panel has been mandated to decide on sharing the central bank's reserves.

“It will be interesting to see if the government will get interim dividend/surplus from the RBI. This will help to shore up the revenue. Also, the bank recap programme announced recently would be more likely through the issuance of bonds which will be budget-neutral except for the interest payment to be made,” Care Ratings said in a research note.

The government has collected Rs 7,31,669 crore of tax revenue till November in the current year, which is less than 50% of its budget estimates for the fiscal year 2018-19.

The government has pegged tax collection for the year at Rs 14,80,649 crore and has been able to mop up only 49.4% of the target till now.

The collection, as a share of the estimates, is significantly lower than the numbers in the corresponding period last year. During the same period of last year, the government was able to garner 57% of its budgetary estimates on the tax revenue. Till November 2017, the Centre had collected Rs 6,99,392 crore in the form of tax revenue.

The dip in the collections has also taken a toll on the overall financial planning of the country in building up to the general elections. As a result of this, the fiscal deficit, the difference between the expenses and the revenues of the government, has already breached its annual estimate for the current year. The fiscal deficit numbers, as of November stood at Rs 7,16,625 crore – which is 114.8% of the budgeted estimates of Rs 6,24,276 crore for the full year.

However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is confident of achieving the fiscal deficit target of 3.3% during the current financial year. The collection will primarily depend on the collection of GST, which has seen cut in the rates in a buildup to the elections. It also depends on how much the government mobilises as part of its divestment target, which is pegged at Rs 80,000 crore.

"There are big-ticket divestments on cards. They are going to cross their disinvestment targets. They will also delay the payments to the Food Corporation of India..... And if they aren't able to do this they will dig into the RBI reserves. And they have the pliable governor now," Govind Rao, member of 14th Finance Commission, said.

According to the experts and analysts, the government has missed on the GST collection targets for five of the eight months.

 

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