Over the past few years, many Indian business families have established estate planning structures, many of which comprise one or more family trusts. The main driver for these structures would have been tax driven considerations. Under the recent Finance Bill, 2017 (Finance Bill), there was a key amendment proposed to the Income-tax Act, 1961 (IT Act), which if passed would have had a significant impact on existing and future estate planning structures – by way of a ‘gift tax’ in respect of assets received by taxpayers without consideration or for inadequate consideration (Proposed Amendment).

Subsequently, the Proposed Amendment has been further amended by the Finance Act, 2017, as passed by the Parliament on March 30th, 2017 (Finance Act). In this article, we discuss the said amendment to the gift tax regime.

Under the IT Act, gifts received by individuals and Hindu Undivided Families (HUFs), were taxed, subject to tax certain conditions and exceptions. However, other tax payers, such as unlisted companies, partnership firms and limited liability partnerships were not subject to gift tax, except if they receive shares of unlisted companies without consideration or for inadequate consideration. However, certain exceptions, namely receipts from relatives, gifts on occasion of marriage, etc had been retained.

In order to remove this disparity, the Finance Act provided that the ‘gift tax’ regime shall apply equally to all tax payers post April 1st, 2017.

Continue Reading Update on Finance Act, 2017: A lucky escape for Trusts

Indian society is predominantly a family oriented society, both at the social familial level, and almost equally so at the business level. Indian society lays strong emphasis on family values, loyalty (to the family) and inclusion. There are unsaid dynamics that define and drive family relationships, especially concerning authority and hierarchy. Family ties, age and gender play an important, if not the only role, in decision making. This kind of structure is not unique to any particular religious community as a vast majority of traditional Indian business families, irrespective of their religious backgrounds or beliefs, will display these characteristics.

Traditional Hindu families have adopted the teachings from the two major ancient Indian mythological epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These epics have been imbibed to such a great extent in the mind and conscience of Indian society, that the values and thoughts therein still evoke reverence. Continue Reading The Indian Model of Family Governance