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India today boasts of 75 Lakh Commercial Vehicles with 80% of those being owned by small owners who own 10 vehicles or less. Further, since independence truckers have not faced challenges that threaten their very existence itself, as in the year 2017. Too many changes enforced too soon by way of government policies had brought transportation itself to the verge of collapse. Its only by its sheer resilience that transportation in India is still able to limp on its feet, despite the fact that many have been forced to shut shop permanently.

The real concern is that the survival challenge has not abated yet and 2018 also begins with policy measures that continue to hit the goods transportation, especially the truckers under their belt. It all started with the demonetisation, that brought the truckers to its knees as transportation traditionally had been dependent on cash for its transit by way of en route expenses and other regular expenses such as at RTO, check posts etc. during the transit. With cash withdrawn from the economy and transition enforced, by way of banking and other transactions, the entire transportation went on its knees. This was then followed by the introduction of the GST that literally and still continues to shake the very roots of goods transportation in the country as there is no clarity regarding the application of GST provisions to the goods transportation industry. The result, the goods transportation is hanging like a trishanku in mid-air and still do not know how it will emerge from the crisis. The above was further compounded by the announcement of daily fuel pricing and unrelenting rise in diesel prices, that threw the entire planning in transportation out of gear as planning for funds for diesel en route under the condition was not possible. Further, how is a trucker expected to absorb the rise of over Rs.6 per litre in the diesel price in a month as was experienced in the month of January 2018. Does he even make that kind of profits to look at the possibility? The budget announcement on Section 44AE of Income Tax Act regarding presumptive taxation for goods vehicle owners having 10 or less than 10 fleets also has caused an ultimate consternation. Section 44AE, inter alia, provides that, the profits and gains shall be deemed to be an amount equal to seven thousand five hundred rupees (Rs.7500) per month or part of a month for each goods carriage or the amount claimed to be actually earned by the assessed, whichever is higher.

The current presumptive income scheme is applicable uniformly to all classes of goods carriages irrespective of their tonnage capacity. The only condition which needs to be fulfilled is that the assessed should not have owned more than 10 goods carriages at any time during the previous year. It is necessary to mention here that the legislative intent of introducing this provision was to give benefit to small transporters in order to reduce their compliance burden. It is now proposed to amend the section 44AE of the Act to provide that, in the case of heavy goods vehicle (more than 12MT gross vehicle weight), the income would have deemed to be an amount equal to one thousand rupees per ton of gross vehicle weight or unladen weight, as the case may be, per month or part of a month for each goods vehicle or the amount claimed to be actually earned by the assessed, whichever is higher. The vehicles other than heavy goods vehicle will continue to be taxed as per the existing rates. With onslaughts as detailed above a trucker does not see even Rs.7500/- as an income but is complying with the provisions of the Finance Act of 1994, effective from 1st April 1994, so that he can be free of the burden to maintain accounts and present the same for audit as majority of the vehicle owners are also uneducated. For a better understanding as related to the budget 2018 proposal, this can be highlighted by way of an example as it relates to a 25 Ton and a 35 Ton vehicle. For a 25 Ton vehicle at Rs.1000 per month per vehicle, translates to an income of Rs. 25,000 per vehicle per month. This accordingly translates to a total income of Rs.2,50,000 for an owner with 10 number 25 Ton vehicle. Similarly, for an owner with 10 number 35 Ton vehicle, this will translate to Rs. 3,50,000 by way of income It stands to reason and verification that no such trucker without any exception is making such an income from the carriage since, the monthly EMI commitment on the vehicle over 5-year period on ever-rising price of the vehicle apart from other commitments like diesel, tolls, vehicle servicing, salary etc. itself consumes all his income, leaving very little in the end even for his family and other personal needs. Added to this now a day loans on the vehicle is subjected to producing PAN details and IT returns by the vehicle buyer. Is it not a contradiction that on one hand while the government has made special reliefs under GST just so as to protect the trucker, the government is threatening him on his basic survival itself by way of this proposal in the budget.

Given the churn truckers have been undergoing due to the reasons as detailed above, it is, therefore, requested that the government kindly consider revising the amount of Rs.7500/- per vehicle per month itself to Rs.5000 per vehicle per month for all categories of the vehicles irrespective of their carrying capacity. We also request the government at this stage to kindly consider a review of all its policy measures, as related to goods transportation, announced so far and revise it suitably, like for example revising the daily fixing of diesel price to once in 3 months among others.

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