India’s Finance Act 2020, COVID–19 & HNIs - An Update

The Finance Bill, 2020 (“Bill”) was presented as the Union Budget on February 1, 2020 (“Budget”) and then introduced in the Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) – it was finally passed on March 23, 2020 with certain key amendments (“Amendment”). Interestingly, this was passed without any discussions in Parliament and received the presidential assent on March 27. Accordingly, the same will come into effect from April 1, 2020 (“Finance Act”).

The Finance Act needs to be seen in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic being played out in India. As India undergoes a 21-day lockdown, post passing of the Amendment, the government is undertaking pro-active measures by way of press conferences to address the pressing needs of the society. To begin with, the government announced an extension of various statutory compliances for taxpayers (discussed below). Next, the Finance Minister (“FM”) announced a COVID-19 relief package for the poor, which primarily covers food security and direct cash transfers to them. Lastly, on March 27, Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) Governor, Shaktikanta Das slashed the key lending rate by 75 basis points in an emergency move, to counter the economic fallout of the said lockdown. The RBI also permitted all commercial banks and lending institutions to allow a 3-month moratorium on loans. “Banks should do all they can to keep credit flowing,” Mr Das said.
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Covid -19 and succession planning

 Lawyers are generally very conservative – so it may sound a bit alarmist to hear us say “the world is ending!” At the time of writing, India is coming to grips with the terrifying ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (“COVID-19”)’ virus. There is something primal and scary about an airborne threat that can kill you – from something as simple as coming close to an infected person, or touching a door handle, etc. It makes us think about the fragility of life, and the need to protect our loved ones. Some people may believe the steps being taken at present are an overreaction – but are they?

As per the WHO, COVID-19 appears to target the elderly and individuals having underlying illnesses. The WHO mission to China found that 78% of the cases reported as of February 20, 2020 were in individuals between ages 30 and 69. In a matter of barely three months, COVID-19 has infected over 185,000 individuals, resulting in nearly 7,200 deaths, covering 157 countries and territories around the world. The Diamond Princess cruise ship harbored in Yokohama, Japan— was among the lone case involving an international vessel. In India, at the time of writing, 110+ individuals tested positive for the virus, with three fatalities. The virus knows no boundaries, gender or net worth, targeting poor and rich alike. Pandemics are an equalizer in society.


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