Home / Money / Personal Finance /  New tax regime is very attractive now

The finance minister went all out to woo taxpayers into the fold of the concessional tax regime, popularly known as the new tax regime.

Not many taxpayers have shifted to the new concessional tax regime since its introduction in budget 2020. Most individuals have continued with the old tax regime.

With budget 2023 unveiling multiple big changes— by introducing standard deduction of 50,000, raising the basic tax exemption limit to 3 lakh, tweaking the tax rates and reducing the highest surcharge rate—all under the new tax regime, the needle has definitely moved in favour of this regime.

The new tax regime for individuals and Hindu undivided families, or HUFs, brought via Section 115BAC of the Income Tax Act was aimed at bringing in a lower rate and a simpler tax system from 1 April 2020. Taxpayers could choose between the new and the old regime. Opting for the new regime meant taxpayers would be charged slightly lower tax rates but would have to forgo most deductions and exemptions available to them under the old regime.

Under the new tax regime, the basic income tax exemption limit has been raised from the current 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh. The number of slabs has been reduced from six to five – the existent 25% tax slab has been done away with. So, for example, those with a taxable income of over 12.5 lakh to 15 lakh fell within the 25% tax slab (pre-budget new tax regime). Now, those with a taxable income of over 12 lakh to 15 lakh will fall under the 20% tax slab. Nothing has changed for those in the old tax regime.

Currently, those with an annual income of 5 lakh do not pay any income tax either under the old or the new tax regime. This is after taking into account the rebate of 12,500 under Section 87A of the Income Tax Act.

Now, a rebate of 25,000 will apply to those with income not exceeding 7 lakh under the new tax regime. “Persons in the new tax regime, with income up to 7 lakh will not have to pay any tax," said Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech.

Extending the 50,000 standard deduction benefit to the salaried under the new tax regime is another big positive. Currently, salaried individuals (those with income from salary and pension) get standard deduction under the old tax regime but not the new regime.

In a big relief to those in the higher income tax brackets, the highest surcharge rate of 37% (applicable to those with an income of over 5 crore) has been cut to 25% under the new tax regime. This will bring down the highest tax rate under the new regime to 39% from 42.74%.

And finally, the new income tax regime is set to become the default regime from financial year 2023-24. You can, however, opt for the old regime if you so want. Currently, the old regime is the default choice for a taxpayer and you can shift to the new regime by opting for it.

With all these changes, someone who is not utilizing several of the tax exemptions and deductions available under the old tax regime can consider shifting to the new tax regime. Though the benefit (in the form of lower tax outgo) of moving to the new tax regime gets better for those with very high income levels (over 5 crore).

Let’s take an example. If you have an annual income of 12 lakh and invest 1.5 lakh in Public Provident Fund (PPF) under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, then your tax outgo under the old regime comes to 1.17 lakh versus only 85,800 under the new regime. For someone with a higher annual income of say 50 lakh and the same investment in PPF, the tax outgo under the old regime comes to 13 laks versus 12.32 lakh under the new regime. For someone with an even higher income of 6 crore–who will now be subject to a surcharge of 25% instead of 37% under the old regime–the tax outgo comes to 2.53 crore under the old regime versus 2.3 crores under the new regime (numbers have been rounded off, based on EY’s calculator).

But, if someone is an aggressive tax planner and avails of, say, 1.5 lakh deduction for PPF investment, 50,000 deduction for national pension system NPS investment, and another 2 lakh as deduction for interest paid on home loan (total 4 lakh deduction), the balance can start tilting in favour of the old regime. For example, for someone with an annual income of 50 lakh, and claiming deduction of 4 lakh, the tax outgo under the old regime would be 12.25 lakh versus 12.32 lakh under the new regime.

Here are a few points to note before you make the shift though. One, even if you shift to the new regime (and will no longer enjoy any deductions except for the standard deduction), you will still have to continue with some of your investments. For instance, you cannot discontinue your investments in PPF and NPS as it could result in penalty and freezing of account. Two, for those lacking in investment discipline, moving to the new tax regime will leave them with no incentive to continue with some of these investments, and insurance policies. On the other hand, those with cash flow issues may be able to enjoy the benefit of relatively lower tax rates without having to invest for tax-saving purposes

Maulik Madhu
Maulik Madhu is a special correspondent at Mint. She started her career at the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and forayed into business journalism in 2012. Choosing to specialize in personal finance, she worked at FundsIndia and The Hindu Business Line, before joining Mint in March 2022.
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