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India unlikely to offer tax waivers to fast track global bond index inclusion - sources

·2-min read
A cashier checks Indian rupee notes inside a room at a fuel station in Ahmedabad

By Swati Bhat and Aftab Ahmed

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) - India is opposed to providing any capital gains tax waivers to overseas debt investors even if it delays its goal of getting its bonds included in global bond indexes, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The Indian government had initiated the process of listing its debt in global indexes in 2019, and has been in discussions with J.P.Morgan and Bloomberg-Barclays while also talking to Euroclear with regards to clearing and settlement.

Under existing rules, an overseas investor is required to pay a short-term capital gains tax of 30% if a listed bond is sold within 12 months.

The global bond index listing plan was widely expected to be announced early this year but the government's insistence on capital gains has slowed talks with index operators, officials privy to discussions told Reuters.

The finance ministry did not immediately reply to a mail and a message seeking comments.

In October last year, Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das said the index inclusion was in an advanced stage of discussions with major index providers and should happen "maybe in the next few months".

"The taxation part of it is the only thing that is yet to be resolved. But there is no rationale to tax citizens and not tax overseas investors," a senior source aware of the discussions said.

Domestic investors have to pay short-term capital gains tax on debt investments as per their prevailing tax slabs and additional 4% cess.

"The risks of such index inclusions have always been there and though India is in a much better shape now, globally things are fairly volatile and it may not necessarily be the best time to go for this," he added.

Index inclusion will aid sentiment in the near-term and incremental foreign investment inflows over the medium term would help policymakers to buy some time until the global market conditions become somewhat easier to navigate, Deutsche Bank said in a recent note.

"Global bond index inclusion is not a panacea for all the challenges faced by India at this juncture, but at least it can help on the margin," the bank said.

(Reporting by Swati Bhat and Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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