In her first press briefing since the coronavirus outbreak, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday, 24 March, announced a slew of measures to deal with the economic impact of the viral pandemic, even as the nation intermittently goes into lockdown.
Here are the key highlights of her speech:
- The FM said that an economic package is being readied and will be announced “sooner rather than later.” She added that stock market developments are being monitored closely, thrice a day.
- She also extended all key deadlines to 30 June 2020, including the deadline for filing Income Tax returns for FY 18-19, GST returns for the months of March, April and May, and Aadhaar-PAN linking.
- Sitharaman also announced that there will be no minimum balance requirement fee imposed by the banks. "Debit cardholders who withdraw cash from any bank's ATM can do it free of charge for the next 3 months," she said.
- In a relief for MSMEs, the threshold of default has been extended to Rs 1 crore from the existing Rs 1 lakh to prevent insolvency proceedings.
- "If the independent directors of a company have not been able to hold even one meeting, it shall not be seen as a violation," the FM said, adding, “Mandatory requirement of holding board meetings is being relaxed by a period of 60 days."
- According to the FM, if the situation continues beyond April, the government will consider suspending Sections of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code for 6 months to stop companies from being forced into insolvency.
- The ‘Sab Ka Vishwas’ indirect tax dispute redressal scheme has been extended to 30 June. Furthermore, there is no interest on payments made before that.
- The ‘Vivad Se Vishwas’ scheme, which aims to resolve pending income tax litigation, has been extended to 30 June as well. The 10 percent additional charge on paying the principal amount involved in tax dispute has been waived.
- For companies with turnovers of less than Rs 5 crore there is no late fee or interest on deferred payment of GST.
- For companies with turnovers of over Rs 5 crore, there’s no late fee or penalty and the interest rate on deferred payment will be reduced from 18 to 9 percent.
- In a relief to importers and exporters, the FM announced that customs clearance will now be an essential service till 30 June and will be working 24/7.
In a tweet, the finance minister earlier said she would be speaking “specifically on statutory and regulatory compliance matters” amid the COVID-19 outbreak. She also mentioned that the government is readying an economic package to help the country through the lockdown over coronavirus.
Later on Tuesday, at 8 pm, PM Modi is scheduled to address the nation once more on the coronavirus crisis.
Earlier in his address on the virus outbreak on 19 March, PM Narendra Modi had called for "resolve and restraint" to fight the disease.
He had also announced setting up of a task force, to be headed by Sitharaman, to look at measures to limit economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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