Existing Indian legislation might impose a 2% fee on bitcoin purchases made on offshore exchanges that serve the Indian market.
The Indian government’s 2% “equalization levy” could be extended to crypto-assets purchased via off-shore exchanges, according to local sources.
According to a story published on June 22 by the Economic Times, existing law may mandate a 2% fee to be applied to the settlement price of crypto purchased via foreign-based crypto exchanges operating in India’s market.
The government first imposed the equalization levy in 2016, putting a 6% tax on payments for e-commerce products and services to non-resident enterprises that do not have a permanent establishment in India.
The equalization levy, on the other hand, was adjusted in mid-2020. The new legislation, called the “Google Tax,” put a 2% tax on services offered by off-shore e-commerce companies doing business in India, with tax experts speculating that the levy could also apply to foreign-based crypto exchanges serving Indian customers.
“The way the new equalization levy is worded and defined, it appears that it will also be applicable on cryptocurrency bought from an exchange not based in India,” Girish Vanvari, founder of tax advisory firm Transaction Square, told Economic Times. He added:
“The levy is on the selling price and companies may be required to add this to the cost of the crypto assets.”
Amit Maheshwari, a tax partner at tax consultancy firm AKM Global, said that imposing a 2% fee without first developing a comprehensive regulatory apparatus handling crypto assets would be problematic for India’s government, saying:
“In the absence of any guidelines on the treatment of crypto assets, there is ambiguity in how these would be treated under the tax laws and FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act).”
The regulatory status of crypto assets has long been a point of contention, with Cointelegraph reporting on June 16 that the Indian government is considering whether to introduce a bill outright prohibiting crypto, with some officials arguing that digital assets should be classified as an alternate asset class.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) appears to have maintained its anti-crypto stance, with RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das declaring that the central bank has expressed “major concerns” to the government about cryptocurrencies.
The RBI’s two-year prohibition on local financial organizations offering banking services to businesses operating with crypto assets was abolished by India’s Supreme Court in March 2020.
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