The Indian media and entertainment industry is expected to outgrow the Indian economy with a cumulative annual growth rate of around 15 per cent over the next four years. India's industry of dreams expects some sweeteners from Budget 2013 to provide the necessary impetus to maintain the growth momentum:
An exemption from service tax on costs of film making (fees paid to actors, directors, line producers, etc.) in line with the exemption provided on the temporary transfer of copyright in cinematograph films.
An exemption from the service tax on films distributed by a digital cinema service distributor in a digitized encrypted format transmitted directly to a cinema theatre for exhibition - this exemption was withdrawn with the introduction of the negative list based service tax legislation.
An amendment to the service tax legislation to clarify that content temporarily imported into India for carrying out post production activity and subsequent re-export of processed content will not be subject to service tax. This will provide a fillip to Indian post production companies that are increasingly seeing work being outsourced to India.
The subsuming of the entertainment tax under the proposed goods and services tax legislation without creating a window for its levy at the local or state level so as to ensure simplicity in the tax structure.
The reinstatement of the erstwhile Section 80-IB of the Income-Tax Act, 1961, which provided for profit-linked deduction for multiplexes so as to aid in their expansion in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, given the significant revenue contribution made by theatrical exhibition in the overall film pie.
Incentives in the form of tax credits for both content creation and infrastructure, as is prevalent in the West, to allow India to effectively compete with Western countries and create a platform to showcase India's creative talents globally.
The exemption from service tax of the services rendered by players and coaches to private sports leagues / bodies in line with the exemption provided for services to recognised sports leagues / bodies, to accelerate growth in this promising sector.
The deletion of the reverse charge levy of service tax on sponsorship services provided by a corporate organisation to another corporate organisation, since under the reverse charge mechanism the scope to set off the service tax paid on inputs is limited, which leads to a substantial blockage of funds in the form of unutilised service tax credit.
The introduction of an alternative mechanism in the law to replace the requirement for foreign performers, entertainers, etc., to obtain income-tax clearance certificates before departing from India, given the time-consuming and onerous process in obtaining the certificates.
Some clarity by way of specific provisions on the taxation of foreign telecasting companies (FTC) in India which has been the subject matter of a prolonged litigation. While earlier, FTCs (operating through an agent in India) were liable to tax, based on Circular no 742 issued by Central Board of Direct Taxes (10 per cent of gross receipts meant for remittance abroad on a presumptive basis), the circular was subsequently withdrawn.
(Neeraj Khubchandani, senior tax professional, Ernst & Young. The views expressed here are personal.)