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Fed lifts rates amid stronger inflation, drops crisis-era guidance

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Washington: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates , a move that was widely expected but still marked a milestone in the US central bank’s shift from policies used to battle the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession.
In raising its benchmark overnight lending rate a quarter of a percentage point to a range of 1.75 per cent to 2 per cent, the Fed dropped its pledge to keep rates low enough to stimulate the economy “for some time” and signaled it would tolerate inflation above its 2 per cent target at least through 2020.
“The economy is doing very well,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a press conference after the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee released its unanimous policy statement after the end of a two-day meeting.
“Most people who want to find jobs are finding them. Unemployment and inflation are low … The overall outlook for growth remains favorable.”
He added that continued steady rate increases would nurture the expansion, as the Fed approaches a sort of sweet spot with its employment and inflation goals largely met, the economy withstanding higher borrowing costs and no sign of a spike in inflation.
The ongoing economic expansion coupled with solid job growth has pushed the Fed to raise rates seven times since late 2015, rendering the language of its previous policy statements outdated.
Policymakers’ fresh economic projections, also issued on Wednesday, indicated a slightly faster pace of rate increases in the coming months, with two additional hikes expected by the end of this year, compared to one previously.
They see another three rate increases next year, a pace unchanged from their projections in March.
“The Fed’s path of gradual rate hikes and slow (balance) sheet reduction seems well established at this point. The trajectory of US inflation or the broader US economy would likely need to change materially for the FOMC to deviate from that path,” said Aaron Anderson, senior vice president of research at Fisher Investments.
US Treasury yields rose after the Fed’s decision while US stocks were trading marginally lower and closed down on the day. The dollar DXY pared some losses but was still trading lower against a basket of currencies.
Powell also announced the central bank would start holding news conferences after every policy meeting next year, which means a total of eight in 2019. The Fed chief currently holds four such events each year.


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CBDT identifies 20.4 million non-filers, asks I-T dept to take action

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New Delhi :The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has directed the Income-Tax Department to initiate penalty proceedings by June 30 against non-filers and ‘drop filers’ of tax returns.
According to the non-filer monitoring system (NMS) of the I-T department, data for 20.4 million non-filers has been obtained between 2013 and 2017, of which 2.5 million are those who are inconsistent — popularly known as ‘dropped filers’.
“We are issuing notices in all the non-filer/dropped filer cases across the country, and proceedings shall be initiated accordingly in the relevant cases,” said an assessing officer.
Typically, the penalty for non-filing is pursued under Section 271F of the Income Tax Act, and that for late filing under Section 234. If an assessee files returns after the due date of August 31 but before December 31, it will attract a penalty of Rs 5,000. For those who file returns after December 31, the penalty rises to Rs 10,000. However, there is an exemption for small taxpayers — if the total income does not exceed Rs 5 lakh per annum, the maximum penalty will be Rs 1,000.
The tax department has initiated action based on the NMS database, which has identified such non-filers and dropped filers. The said data has been shared with assessing officers. This information may be acted upon as efficiently as possible to widen the tax base, said the officer cited above.
chart The NMS data shows a sharp increase in non-filers since 2013. In 2014, the number of non-filers was 1.22 million, which surged to 6.75 million in 2015.
The number of dropped filers in FY18 stood at 2.52 million, down from 2.83 million in FY17.
“If the existing database is acted upon, coupled with optimum tax administration, and if legislative impetus — such as periodical review of provisions related to exemption, deductions, tax incentives, tax collection from the third parties, and taxing new areas such as digital economy — is provided, there will be considerable increase in the tax base,” said a senior tax official.
An assessing officer can initiate proceedings for prosecution from three months to two years, along with a fine. The period could be extended if the taxable income exceeds Rs 25 lakh.

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RBI releases draft framework for regulatory sandbox to help fintech space

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Mumbai :The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released a draft ‘Enabling Framework for Regulatory Sandbox’ in order to support the country’s rapidly growing fintech space.
The sandbox will begin the testing process with 10-12 selected entities focusing on financial inclusion, payments and lending, digital KYC, etc. The cohorts (end-to-end sandbox process) may run for varying time periods, but should ordinarily be completed within six months, said the RBI.
A regulatory sandbox usually refers to live testing of new products or services in a controlled/test regulatory environment for which regulators may (or may not) permit certain regulatory relaxations for the limited purpose of the testing.
The regulatory sandbox would be within a well-defined space and duration where the RBI will provide the requisite regulatory guidance, so as to increase efficiency, manage risks, and create new opportunities for consumers.
The draft guidelines highlight the clear principles and role of the proposed regulatory sandbox, its pros and cons, the reasons for setting up the regulatory sandbox and expectations of the RBI from the sandbox. The central bank has invited comments on the draft guidelines from stakeholders by May 8.
The draft framework was released on the recommendation of an inter-regulatory working group set up by the RBI in July 2016 to review the regulatory framework and respond to the dynamics of the rapidly evolving fintech scenario.
The target applicants for entry to the regulatory sandbox are fintech firms which meet the eligibility conditions prescribed for start-ups by the government. The entity also needs to have a minimum net worth of ~50 lakh, according to its latest audited balance sheet.
The RBI said that it shall bear no liability arising from the regulatory sandbox process and any liability arising from the experiment will be borne by the applicant as a sandbox entity.
The focus of the regulatory sandbox will be to encourage innovations where there is absence of governing regulations or a need to temporarily ease regulations for enabling the proposed innovation or the proposed innovation shows promise of easing/effecting delivery of financial services in a significant way.
The applicants should highlight how it would address an existing gap in the financial system through its product/service and demonstrate that there is a relevant regulatory barrier in its deployment.
The guidelines listed out the various entities that can apply for the sandbox process as well as the ones that won’t be eligible for the sandbox.

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Mallya asks SBI to disclose ‘legal fees’ spent to recover funds

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New Delhi: Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya on Friday urged Indian media to file an RTI against the State Bank of India (SBI) to ascertain how much money it has spent on the legal fees of the lawyers while recovering money from him in the United Kingdom.
“Whilst media love sensational headlines, why doesn’t anybody ask the PSU State Bank of India under RTI on how much they are spending on legal fees trying to recover money from me in the United Kingdom (UK) when I have offered 100 per cent payback in India,” Mallya tweeted.
To further substantiate his point, he said: “Assets belonging to me in the UK were sold and the costs of sale were almost 50 per cent of value. The remaining assets yet to be sold won’t cover legal costs. So what’s this all about? To enrich UK Lawyers?”
He also demanded an answer from the public sector bank on the same lines.
Mallya also accused the SBI Lawyers representing SBI in the UK of “making presentations on their accomplishments against him” at the “cost of Indian taxpayers’ money.”
Mallya is facing trial for alleged fraud and money laundering amounting to Rs 9,000 crore.
On April 8, a United Kingdom court had denied permission to the liquor baron to appeal against his extradition order to India to face trial for alleged fraud and money laundering amounting to Rs 9,000 crore.

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