Is the LPG subsidy in your bank account taxable?

It is absolutely necessary for the I-T department to come out with clear guidelines as to whether this LPG subsidy amount deposited in the bank accounts of some consumers is exempted from income tax. People who received LPG subsidy in their Aadhaar linked bank account are confused


Much water has flowed under the bridges since the controversial Aadhaar project was launched and reams of paper would have been consumed writing about the pros and cons of this project for the last nearly five years. As per the statistics placed before the Parliament, the government has issued 57.62 crore Aadhaar numbers till 31 January 2014. This means nearly 48% of the country’s population has been issued with this identity number, which has several ramifications on people of this country as unearthed by a series of articles published in Moneylife so far.  

 

As an offshoot of this project, the union government has been aggressively pursuing for crediting the subsidy due on the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to consumers directly through their bank accounts linked with Aadhaar with the stated objective of curbing leakages and preventing black marketing of cylinders.
 

Till the end of last year, 66 million consumers in 184 high Aadhaar coverage districts, in 18 states, have been covered under the scheme. Till 31 December 2013 about 40 million cash transfers amounting to Rs2,000 crore to consumers’ bank accounts have taken place since the launch of the scheme in June 2013. And from 1 January 2014, it was proposed to cover gas consumers in Delhi and Mumbai who will get cash subsidy through their bank accounts, as the direct benefit transfer for LPGs (DBTL) scheme would be extended to 105 more districts. When this roll out is completed almost half the country covering 289 districts would get covered by this scheme.
 

Then on 30 January 2014, bowing to political pressure and hue and cry from common citizens, the Indian government put on hold its scheme to transfer subsidy money into bank accounts of consumers through Aadhaar. Explaining the reasons behind the move to put on hold a scheme that was dubbed game-changer, oil minister M Veerappa Moily said there were complaints about the implementation of the scheme, and a committee has been formed to look into them.
 

At present, in Delhi, the price of non-subsidised cooking gas is Rs1,080.50 and for subsidised LPG cylinder, it is Rs414.
 

How does the direct benefit transfer scheme for LPGs work?
 

As per the direct benefit transfer for LPG (DBTL), consumer will get her cylinder at full market price and the difference between subsidised price and full market price i.e. the subsidy will be refunded to her by crediting directly into her bank account. It was initially announced that this subsidy is restricted to only six cylinders in a year, where after, the consumer will have to pay full market price for every cylinder supplied. This cap was increased to nine cylinders and later to 12 cylinders per year for every consumer.
 

To start with, this scheme was made available only to those who have obtained an Aadhaar number and submitted these details both to her bank and to the gas supplier/dealer, for linking the Aadhaar number to the DBTL scheme. The consumers in that district where the scheme was introduced were given three months’ time to enroll themselves into this scheme, failing to which they would be denied the benefit of subsidy and they will have to pay market price for all the cylinders required by them, as they will be ineligible for the subsidy from the government.
 

Subsequently, under the Supreme Court order, the government announced that it is not mandatory to have Aadhaar number to be eligible for LPG subsidy and those who do not have Aadhaar number will continue to get the cylinders at the subsidised rates as before. There was however, considerable confusion as many banks and oil companies were not prepared with the logistics to credit the amount to beneficiaries’ accounts, and complaints started pouring in from the consumers, who did not know how to go about it if the subsidy was not credited to their account promptly. Due to the hue and cry from a large number of consumers, the government on 30 January 2014 decided to put on hold its scheme to transfer subsidy money into bank accounts of consumers through Aadhaar.                                                                        

Read: Following articles in Moneylife:
                                           

Aadhaar for LPG: How you can get justice? 
                
Aadhaar & LPG: Cabinet puts subsidy transfer scheme on hold; raises subsidised LPG cylinder cap to 12
 

Is the subsidy directly credited to your bank account taxable?
 

As per the latest report dated 7 March, 2014 in the Indian Express, the Ministry of Oil and Petroleum has scrapped the ambitious Direct Benefit Transfer system for LPG subsidy with effect from 10 March 2014. A communication regarding this has been reportedly sent by the ministry to oil marketing companies (OMCs) and gas agencies a few days ago.  Consumers will now get their twelve cylinders till the end of March 2014, and get the benefit of 12 subsidised cylinders in the next financial year from April onwards.
 

Though there is still no clarity as to whether the DBTL scheme will be revived at all, what is agitating the minds of many of the consumers, who have received the subsidy in their bank accounts during this financial year, is whether the amount so credited by the OMCs to their account would be considered as ‘income’ for the purpose of payment of income tax on such receipts. This is because, a number of consumers, who have received the subsidy through their bank account, are tax payers, who will have to take a view on this matter, before filing their return of income for the current year. This confusion arose because of an article that appeared in Economic Times on 12 December 2013 under the headline “Direct LPG subsidy payouts may be taxed: Experts”. The media story in short reads as under:
 

“The money that the government transfers directly to consumers' bank accounts as LPG subsidy may well be considered as an income and taxed, say tax experts. There are no guidelines currently on taxing this type of subsidy payouts, and the income tax department may take a view on whether or not to claim a part of it. "
 

This subsidy is a new development which will accrue in the bank accounts of individuals starting from this year. There is no circular on whether this income should be taxed or not," a senior income tax department official is reported to have said.
 

The subsidy that gets deposited in the bank account is likely to be treated as an income and be taxed accordingly although the amount would be small, said a partner at KPMG, as per the media report.
 

One of the affected consumers wrote to local office of Indian Oil Corporation seeking clarification on this matter, and he received a reply that states, “This subsidy is paid by government of India; hence, we will not be able to satisfy your query, you may ask any tax consultant.”
 

Will the Income Tax department clarify this matter before it is too late?
 

It is preposterous to treat LPG subsidy as income, as it is contrary to reason. It is only a refund of the excess amount paid by the consumer to the gas dealer, which the oil company refunds to the beneficiary to comply with the government order to sell the LPG cylinder at the stipulated price to the users. It is therefore, impetuous for tax authorities to take a view that this amount is taxable at the hands of beneficiaries.
 

Besides, now that linking of Aadhaar is not mandatory for receiving the gas cylinders at the subsidised rates, and the whole scheme of direct benefit transfer has been scrapped for the time being, any decision to tax the subsidy received through bank accounts during this financial year would tantamount to penalising those who faithfully complied with the government instructions, leaving all those who have abstained from doing so unaffected by this decision.
 

The onus, therefore, is on the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to clarify this matter well in advance of the date of filing the tax returns for the current financial year, to enable the tax payers to file their returns correctly. This, however, does not apply to those not coming under the tax bracket, and who are not required to file their tax returns. But since this subsidy is given to a large number of tax payers, it is absolutely necessary for the tax department of the government to come out with clear guidelines as to whether this subsidy amount is exempted from income tax, so that this matter is settled once and for all and all the tax assessing officers take a uniform view through out the country.       
    

(The author is banking analyst and he writes for Moneylife under the pen name ‘Gurpur’)

Comments
Syedimran Khan
4 years ago
Want to known subsidy info
Anti Corruption
8 years ago
Let this government be voted out for imposing the bank account/aadhar and related problems with bank accounts upon the people, just like the previous government was voted out. Let them never come to power again. Let these burdens never be imposed by any government on the people again.
Anti Corruption
8 years ago
Let this government be voted out for imposing the bank account/aadhar and related problems with bank accounts upon the people, just like the previous government was voted out. Let them never come to power again. Let no government bring up these burdens again and let any government that brings these burdens be totally voted out for ever.
MG Warrier
8 years ago
Just for academic interest, copied below is my December 23, 2011 response to an article published in The Hindu Business Line:
Review Aadhaar

“Aadhaar or Niraadhaar? That’s the question!”(Business Line, December 23) sums up the present predicament of UID project and the not so envious situation in which Mr. Nanden Nilekani is placed. Nilekani doesn’t lose much, because he gains experience in the learning process which will take him to greater heights. Government has no prestige issue on such matters, because this sort of meddling, cost and time overruns and huge losses are part of any game government plays, at least in the recent past in India. 70 per cent of the 120 crore people for whose benefit the project was allegedly conceived, are also not bothered about the present and future of this wonderful exercise as they are literally unaware of the goings on, because they are out of reach for the media. Then, why B S Raghavan is getting over-worked about the success or failure of this Aadhaar? He represents the voice of the taxpayer whose hard-earned money is being wasted and at whose doors finally the buck will stop.
UID, for various reasons including inadequate funding, non-availability of in-house expertise and resultant dependence on external agencies including banks and government departments is bound to take much more time than originally envisaged, even to cover the already ‘identified’ citizens. If government is convinced about the utility of UID, the project should be allowed to merge with the Census of India and access the infrastructure and methodology in use by that organization for decades and fast-track the process.
M G Warrier, Thiruvananthapuram


Rajinder Pal Jindal
8 years ago
it should be abolished
S K Nataraj
8 years ago
All the intended routing of subsidy through bank accounts is unnecessary. It is very cumbersome, and unworkable. We have a very huge population, and the level of literacy is generally low, particularly in aspects relating to Banking. The banking system is today not fully equipped, in my opinion , to handle such a large amount of workload. Further, the public , in rural areas where ATM network is currently very low in comparison with cities, will face extreme hardship in withdrawing subsidy. But the more important problem will come from non- credit/ wrong credit of subsidy and their rectification. I foresee a flood of complaints which will pour in, and banks struggling to cope with the situation.

In my opinion, it will be best to allow the present status-quo to continue. The oil- companies alone should handle the matter with the government, not brining the subscribers into the picture at all. This will save the subscribers from all unnecessary hassles.
Subrata Das
8 years ago
When you buy the cylinder , book the full amount under "Expenses " . When you receive the subsidy , credit that to "Expenses " .
B Ramesh Adiga
Replied to Subrata Das comment 8 years ago
Quite fair, sensible reasoning.
MG Warrier
8 years ago
The issue raised, namely ‘whether LPG subsidy credited to bank accounts is taxable’ is very relevant. However, it is for Income-tax authorities and GOI to find out ways to ensure that those ‘law-abiding’ citizens who have complied with the AADHAAR-linking and other formalities for getting the subsidy credited to their bank accounts should not be punished twice. First punishment is, already they are paying for every cylinder a higher price than his friends who could not comply with such requirements. I paid Rs1194 for one LPG Cylinder in February 2014. The subsidy credited to my account subsequently is Rs712/-. Thus I paid Rs482/- which is more than the price being charged for a cylinder delivered to one who has not taken efforts to AADHAAR-link his gas account. This is not a personal complaint, but to highlight that if Rs712 credited to my account is taxable, that will be a second punishment for the same crime of ‘supporting AADHAAR’.
S BHASKARA NARAYANA
8 years ago
I have a doubut whether 33% subsidy of Rs.30 lacs rice sorting machines imported by the Rice Millers is taxable in the same way as Gas subsidy is dealt with?
Veeresh Malik
8 years ago
What I am worried about is being taxed for presumptive income on gas sylinders not utilised for subsidy. (We use about 4-5 cylinders per annum and the delivery guy has been asking me to make additional bookings for this year so that he can make some money . . . )
Vaibhav Dhoka
8 years ago
Actually DBTL scheme the consumer has to pay extra 23 Rs as vat in Maharashtra.So he is looser.
Anurag
8 years ago
No wonder, schemes are implemented without application of mind.
Dayananda Kamath k
Replied to Anurag comment 8 years ago
they have applied their mind to loot the public money on the garb of saving paise 85 from rs.1being provided by govt which is also being looted. and demcocracy is also looted by freebees.
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