FM cuts tax on interest in govt, corp debt for foreigners

The government will cut the tax on interest payments to foreigners on government and corporate debt to 5 percent from up to 20 percent for a two-year period, in a bid to draw further inflows to bridge its current account deficit and polish its reformist credentials.

The move meets a long-term demand of foreigners and makes Indian debt more attractive. Many other Asian countries such as Singapore do not tax such interest income.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram also clarified that a tax residency certificate issued by a foreign government would be an accepted proof of residency for tax purposes.

The government, in its budget proposals, had created confusion with a proposal stating that a tax residency certificate “shall be necessary but not a sufficient condition” to take advantage of double taxation avoidance agreements.

Chidambaram, moving amendments to his budget proposals on Tuesday, said that the February budget proposal to lower withholding tax on infrastructure bonds would now be extended to government debt and infrastructure bonds.

The cut will be effective from June 1, 2013 to May 31, 2015, he said.

The Finance Bill was passed by the lower house of the parliament amid an opposition boycott.

The 10-year benchmark government bond yield fell as much as 4 basis points to 7.73 percent while the Indian rupee breached 54 level to the dollar after the relaxation was announced.

The cut in the withholding tax follows recent easing in rules for investment in government and corporate bonds.

Chidambaram, who has been pushing reforms to draw inflows, recently met investors in roadshows in United States and Canada.