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Proposed amendment under Section 54EC

Budget 2018 has inter alia proposed an amendment to Section 54EC of the Income-tax Act. This section currently provides for an exemption of long term capital gains(“LTCG”) on sale of any Long Term Capital Asset provided the capital gains are invested within 6 months from the date of transfer, in certain long term specified assets viz any bond, redeemable after three years and issued on or after the 1st day of April, 2007 by the National Highways Authority of India constituted under section 3 of the National Highways Authority of India Act, 1988 or by the Rural Electrification Corporation Limited.

Vide the budget, the government has proposed to amend the above section by restricting its scope only to capital gains arising from long-term capital assets, being land or building or both. It is also proposed to provide that long-term specified asset, for making any investment under the section on or after the 1st day of April, 2018, shall mean any bond, redeemable after five years as against the earlier three years and issued on or after 1st day of April, 2018 by the National Highways Authority of India or by the Rural Electrification Corporation Limited or any other bond notified by the Central Government in this behalf.

This amendment will take effect, from 1st April, 2019 and will, accordingly, apply in relation to the assessment year 2019-20 and subsequent assessment years.

Our take

While the intention of the legislature behind this amendment has not clearly been spelt out in the Memorandum to the Finance Bill, one can infer that this would come down heavily on investors earning LTCG on sale of shares especially listed shares and units of equity oriented funds as they can neither claim an exemption under Section 10(38) nor can they reduce their tax burden by claiming an exemption under Section 54EC as this exemption is, as already stated above, now available only if LTCG is on account of transfer of land or building or both.

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