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Return to: Home > Comments > Comprehensive view from the locals: India

Comprehensive view from the locals: India

Arun Srinivasan, partner of Vasan & Sampath LLP, and member of the INPACT Asia Pacific Board
Rashi Sakaria, chief executive officer, Chokshi Group, MSI Global member firm
Vivek Agarwal, managing partner at Habibullah & Co. Chartered Accountants, (member firm of Antea)
Amit Chopra founding partner of Gopal Chopra & Associates (CPAAI)

Contributors from India were asked three questions: What were the highlights/trends in your market last year? (i.e. important mergers, regulatory changes, economic situation etc.); What are the opportunities and challenges for accounting firms in the market?; What are the expectations for the future short/medium/long term?


By Amit Chopra founding partner of Gopal Chopra & Associates, (member of CPAAI)

There has been developments in India. The Indian economy has continued to grow 7% in the last year and it has overtook China to become the fastest growing economy in the world.

In November 2016 the government decided to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1000 (USA$15) currency notes. This demonetisation exercise was conducted to crack down on black money, such as money on which taxes have not been paid. This caused pain for people in the short term, although the final economic impact is still getting quantified. However, for the accounting firms it has resulted in enhanced opportunities relating to tax compliances.

Another development was the Liberalisation of the Foreign Direct Investment Policy making India an investor friendlyand an attractive Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination. This is further complemented by government measures promoting Ease of doing Business in India.

Additionally, the Goods and Service Tax Act finally became a law in India. This is the biggest tax reform in the country after independence and brought all Indirect taxes under one law for the entire country. The government is launching varous schemes and initiatives such as skill development, start up India, digital India and the development of Smart Cities. The Goods and Service Tax Act has ushered in an area for a tremendous boost for accountancy professional services due to the increase in the tax base and increased compliances. The introduction of new laws are creating new areas of practice like insolvency laws, and valuation etc.

There are opportunities as the economy grows, the fast pace means that the work for the accountancy firms has increased greatly in all areas of the accoutancy practice. Indian businesses also have started showing preference for structured service providers who provide quality services. Enhanced opportunities are arising in all areas of practice due to India becoming a preferred FDI destianantion.

There are challenges for the accountancy firms in India as the compliance formalities are increased greatly without a corresponding increase in professional fees. Also repetitive tasks need to be computerised in order to bring the cost down and increase innovation, and there is a need to create a nationwide network to provide services to national players. It is also difficult to source the right human resource at the right cost which has arisen as accountants prefer to take up jobs in industries rather than in the accounting profession.

The middle- level firms are finding it difficult as they cannot match the Big Four accountancy firms on account of better branding, talent and capital. Additionally, the increase in infrastructure cost is a challenge.

In the short term I expect that clarity and streamlining of the new laws will be introduced and that the growth in the economy will continue as well as an increase FDI in India.

In the middle to long term I expect that there will be stability in the regulatory environment and for India to become an advanced country and a more mature economy. I also expect that imperfections in the economy will reduce, that there will be an enhanced recognition of the accountancy profession and that the availability of good talent will come at reasonable cost.

 


By Vivek Agarwal, managing partner at Habibullah & Co. Chartered Accountants, (member firm of Antea)

Historic changes are unfolding, unleashing a host of new opportunities to forge a 21st century nation. Today, the economy of India is the 6th largest in the world by nominal Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) and 3rd largest by purchasing power equivalence and the average annual growth rate of GDP has been around 7% in last decade. One of the significant consequences of this growth has been the transformation of a primarily agrarian economy into service and industry oriented economy.

The government of India has been continuously focusing at improving policies and guidelines for doing business in India. The emphasis has been mainly to rationalise and simplify the existing rules, along with introducing technology to make governance more effective and efficient. A prominent change had been the online availability of applying for an Industrial License and Industrial Entrepreneur Memorandum 24*7.

The Government has progressed on environmental clearances and has made sure that it would be red carpet in India rather than red tapism.

The much awaited introduction of Goods & Service Tax (GST) will ensure multiple level taxes on goods and services are subsumed within an integrated tax having two components – a central GST and a state GST. Thus there will be a comprehensive and continuous mechanism of tax credits.

Along with the major industrial cities and towns, India is rapidly developing various strategic locations for companies to establish their base in the country. With the availability of multiple clusters for centres of excellence for manufacturing, engineering & design, and skilled talent at competitive cost, India is at an advantageous position for establishing manufacturing facilities, engineering design and development centres as well as for sourcing from the country.

Chartered Accountants in India will have huge opportunities and challenges under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which is one of the pioneering and game changing transformative initiatives taking shape in India.

Indian Accounting Firms are facing stiff competition in the form of numerous legislations such as Companies Bill, Goods and Services Tax, from technological advancements and also from non-accounting professionals such as Valuers and Company Secretaries. The country has also adopted an Indian version of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), principles-based standards, interpretations, and the framework adopted by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).

Indian Accountants must equip themselves to become global accounting professionals and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) must play a key role towards this. In this direction, ICAI had already inked agreements with various accounting bodies over the world.

Consultancy and advisory services will continue to grow in importance, expanding from traditional financial and business planning into wider issues of business effectiveness and on to leading edge areas such as re-engineering and corporate transformation. At least, some of the major firms will challenge the strategic consultancy organisations. At the same time niche opportunities will open up for smaller operators. And the business advice traditionally offered by practicing accountants would be an increasingly important value-added service although it will not necessarily be badged as consultancy.

The growth of electronic commerce is inhibited by lack of confidence in systems. Accountants can be involved to develop capability to assess whether system and tools used in electronic commerce meet the defined criteria for data integrity, security and privacy and reliability.

Information technology plays a vital role in supporting the activities of both profit oriented and non-profit organizations. IT changes have created many new opportunities for accountants in areas such as information development, information system design, information systems management and control and system evaluation.

New opportunities for the profession will pose challenges to both individual Chartered Accountants and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India. The challenge for the profession as a whole, and for the different stakeholder groups within the profession, is to adopt a structure and mind-set that can rapidly adapt to the changes in the profession and business community. A core skill will be change management with willingness to abandon the old and move toward the new.

There are some challenges facing the accounting firms need to address:

  • To adopt a culture that embraces change and to commit the resources required to manage change (at the ownership, structural and operational levels).
  • For small practices to address the static growth in their traditional markets by specializing, collaborating and growing.
  • To compete effectively against the increasing and cost driven competition by non-accounting firms in traditional markets.
  • To overcome the difficulties in maintaining the increasing knowledge and developing new relevant skills.
  • To grow with clients, match their needs and so retain a growing client base.
  • To develop the strong international links required to compete internationally and to operate as part of a consortium locally.

Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for creating four big Indian accounting firms that are counted among the world's Big-8.  He said the signature of a chartered accountant is more powerful than even that of a prime minister and the government also believes the accounts signed by them.

The Chartered Accountancy profession demands incessant reading, learning, and updating one’s knowledge and for someone who believes in the same, sky is the limit. Broadening his vision would help a Chartered Accountant ‘observe’ what others can only ‘see’ and when you can see the invisible, you can do the impossible.

A Chartered Accountant is a synecdoche to his profession and staying ahead of the times would help him prove his mettle as well the worth of the profession. Not only does a Chartered Accountant bring credit to the professional fraternity but also he is an asset, standing tall on the debit side of the Balance Sheet of the Chartered Accountancy profession. Indian accountants have a big role to play post the GST rollout and also in the context of the new insolvency and bankruptcy law.  Emerging India is waiting and the Chartered Accountants have a big responsibility as they form a key pillar of the Indian economy. 

 


By Arun Srinivasan, partner of Vasan & Sampath LLP, and member of the INPACT Asia Pacific Board

India has emerged as the fastest growing major economy in the world as per the Central Statistics Organisation (CSO) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

India is expected to be the third largest consumer economy as its consumption may triple to US$ 4 trillion by 2025, owing to shift in consumer behaviour and expenditure pattern, according to a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report; and is estimated to surpass USA to become the second largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) by the year 2040, according to a report by PwC.

India's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7% year-on-year in October-December 2016 quarter, which is the strongest among the G-20 countries, as per the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Economic Survey of India, 2017. According to The World Bank, the Indian economy will likely grow 7.6 per cent in 2017-18 and 7.8 per cent in 2018-19.

India's consumer confidence index stood at 136 in the fourth quarter of 2016, topping the global list of countries on the same parameter, as a result of strong consumer sentiment, according to market research agency, Nielsen.

Corporate earnings in India are expected to grow by 20% in the financial year 2017-18 supported by normalisation of profits, especially in sectors like automobiles and banks, while GDP is expected to grow by 7.5% during the same period, according to a Bloomberg consensus.

India has retained its position as the third largest start-up base in the world with over 4,750 technology start-ups, with about 1,400 new start-ups being founded in 2016, according to a report by NASSCOM.

India's labour force is expected to touch 160-170 million by 2020, based on rate of population growth, increased labour force participation, and higher education enrolment, among other factors, according to a study by ASSOCHAM and Thought Arbitrage Research Institute.

Touted by the government to be India's biggest tax reform in 70 years of independence, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was finally launched on the midnight of 30 June 2017, though the process of forming the legislation took 17 years (since 2000 when it was first proposed).

The GST has replaced 17 Indirect Taxes and 23 Cesses. This opens a massive opportunity for accounting firms, from educating, handholding to assisting businesses and meeting their compliance obligations. For providing knowledge on everything from taxation regulations to business finance, will help to generate 150bn rupees (USA$2.3 bn) as consulting charges (fees). This is according to a council member of India’s accounting regulator, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.

According to accounting and taxation experts, GST is set to change the accounting and taxation procedures completely and therefore existing systems will be replaced by new systems and procedures. Besides, new skills and IT infrastructure are needed for accounting and tax filing in GST regime, which will drive businesses and professionals towards new software products.

While some industries might be losers and some might be gainers post GST, companies focusing on creating software and accounting products for taxation requirements are eyeing new business opportunities.

We are very optimistic with the opportunities that exist in India at the moment.  The economy is doing well and is likely to continue as the fastest growing large economy for another decade.  Domestic consumption is increasing. 

Technology is getting all pervasive. As an indicator, while the United States has 220 million internet users and 320 million mobile phone users, India has 350 million internet users and 1.18 billion mobile phone users.

India is the second most populated country in the world with nearly a fifth of the world's population. According to the United Nations in July 2016, the population stood at 1,326 billion.  India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35.  This will keep consumption and supply to the work force up for the foreseeable future.

 


By Divakar Vijayasarathy, managing partner, DVS Advisors LLP, an MSI Global Member Firm (Chennai, India)

India’s economy has witnessed a series of major economic and fiscal reforms and financial turnarounds in the last 1-1.5 year, thanks to the spirited Modi Government. I will explain some examples.

In the month of February, 2016, India surpassed China as the fastest growing major economy in the world amidst the falling global economy. In the month of May, 2016, India’s GDP grew 7.5%, faster than the previous quarter’s 7.3%. In June, India’s GDP grew further to 7.6%, retaining the fastest growing title. The Rupee also plunged to all time low against US dollar on 25th February, 2016 at 68.91 a dollar as investors intended safety of safe heaven assets in US in the thick of global growth concerns.

In June 2016, the Centre introduced the new civil aviation policy, a first integrated policy for the aviation sector since Independence. The policy included subsidised airfares, capping excess baggage and cancellation charges and promoting regional connectivity. The Indian Railways led by Honourable Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu also undertook major makeovers to enhance passenger experience and provide innovative facilities for better travel.

In order to clean up the bad loans that plagued the Indian banking sector, the deadline for cleaning up banks’ balance sheets in relation to non-performing assets was fixed at 31.03.2017.

In the most surprising and unspeculated move of 2016, the Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8th November, 2016 announced the decision to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes in a bid to crack down on black money. The Government issued new Rs. 500 and introduced Rs 2,000 note as replacement. This was one of the boldest reforms and the Government claims that it would definitely bring long-term benefits at the cost of short-term setbacks.

The recent most and globally-practiced economic reform was the enactment of Goods and Service Tax (GST) Act, 2017. The GST Act was implemented to abolish all forms of indirect taxes in relation to goods and services and have one tax in place. The Act strengthened the principle of “One Nation, One Market, One Tax”. 

The GST has been recently welcomed in India and has emerged as a new area of practice in the field of accounts, finance and tax. As the law of GST is relatively new, there are persistent clarifications and confirmations which a businessmen or a corporate would require to ensure smooth functioning and effective liaising with the Government. This could be considered as an accessible opportunity for various accountants and tax practitioners.

There are opportunities in the accounting profession since the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) created the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) which was formally adopted by members of European Union in 2005. As an upcoming economy on world map, India decided to converge to IFRS. As a matter of opportunity, firms engaged in providing business and corporate accounting services can prefer a niche area of IFRS and enhance their practice front especially when the transactions are more on a global footing.

Advisory and consulting services have always demarcated itself from other routine area of practices especially when it involves two countries i.e. on global front. International advisory services includes transfer pricing, inbound and outbound investment structuring, forming and managing tax structures, cross border litigations and disputes, business and accounting compliances in foreign jurisdictions, etc. An opportunity on this consideration can provide a fill-up to small practitioners and mid-size tax firms.

However, there are challenges as the market is staggering and this has affected majorly all types of businesses. Corporates have initiated cost-cutting and the stakeholders have to face the brunt including the accounting and auditing firms. Further, there has been steep reduction in job opportunities including for Chartered Accountants. Qualifieds from last 1 year are still either jobless or working with a low profile job which do not suits their capabilities

Over and above this, recently, the results of Final Examinations of Chartered Accountancy held in May, 2017 were announced and around 10276 aspirers qualified as Chartered Accountants. The pass percentage was shockingly high considering the backlog and the current market trend. This would result in many Chartered Accountants turning out towards own practice and with GST being implemented, there would be many avenues for self-practice. Consequently, there would be an added pressure to the existing firms and Chartered Accountants.

In the future I expect that there will be mandatory centralized accounting for various branches and offices of a corporate entity. That cash transactions will be abolished in all businesses to the extent possible. That the possibility of banking transaction tax is in replacement of income tax and other direct forms of taxes and that the collection of tax will be through a mode of Tax Deduction of Source in respect of Capital Gains income.

I expect that there will be a signing of various international conventions and agreements in relation to tax and legal matters like Multi Lateral Instruments, Advance Pricing Agreements, etc. Also, that there will be a relative concept of Controlled Foreign Corporation and Corresponding Adjustments in Indian tax laws.

Further simplification of procedures and compliance requirements in relation to incorporation of companies in India, will bring in Foreign Direct Investments in India, the acquiring of various statutory and tax registrations, and filing various tax returns online etc.

 


By Rashi Sakaria, chief executive officer, Chokshi Group, MSI Global member firm (Mumbai, India)

India has one of the most complex tax systems in the World. For new businesses and startups, it has become extremely difficult to navigate through the multifaceted Direct and Indirect tax laws prevailing in the country. Constant changes to taxes like Excise & Service Tax are making things even worse. To combat the same and boost economic growth in the country, India has brought into effect its biggest reform since the 1991’s opening of the economy, the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) with effect from 1 July, 2017.

GST is not a new phenomenon. It was first implemented by France in the year 1954, and since then many countries have implemented this unified taxation system. The very basis of the Goods and Services Tax law is the seamless flow of Input Tax Credit (ITC) along the entire value addition chain. GST converts the vicious cycle of “narrow base-high rate-low compliance-narrow base-higher rate” to the virtuous cycle of “wider base-lower rate-better compliance-wider base-lower rate”.

For the implementation of GST in the country, the Indian Parliament passed the 122nd Constitution Amended Bill in August 2016. A destination based tax, India shall implement Dual GST, a model of GST only implemented by Canada until now. A total of 17 different levies are to be subsumed into one single GST levy bringing about a paradigm shift in the age old practice of having a different levy for different category of businesses viz. manufacture, trade and service.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) shall be levied at multiple rates ranging from 0% to 28%. A four-tier tax structure has been finalized with 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% tax rates, with the lower rates for essential items and the highest rate for luxurious / ultra-luxurious and de-merits goods, with a provision for additional cess up to 15%. Essential items including food, which presently constitute roughly half of the consumer inflation basket, will be taxed at zero rate.

GST shall have a far reaching impact as it will be not only the operations that shall be affected, but shall also alter the way businesses are planned. Though initially, implementing GST might be inflationary in nature, the impact is expected to be only transitory. GST has been modeled in such a way that it shall boost the ease of doing business in the country laying the platform for better economic growth.

The unassimilable transformation to a new tax regime completely uncharacteristic of the previous tax structure has left the common man feeling extraneous to the subject matter of Indirect Taxation. This has opened up a new facet and brought about a barrage of opportunities for professionals in the country. The extensive knowledge and the ability to understand the nuances of the Indirect taxes, has the accountancy profession in good stead to deal with this reform.

Overall, GST is expected to change the face of indirect tax structure in the county for good. Going forward, finance & administration, human resources, corporate plans, pricing strategies, sales & marketing strategies as also the information systems shall have to be visualized taking into consideration the possible impact of GST.

Let’s hope that the Government’s “one nation, one tax” motto for GST will be a game changer and proves to be beneficial not only for the common man but to the country as a whole…..

 


By Ketan S Vikamsey, partner at Khimji Kunverji & Co, PFA (Mumbai)

There have been some highlights and trends in the market, firstly the rotation of auditors has been introduced and is effective from 2016-17, this is because large corporates are required to change auditors.  Also the IndAS (Indian – IFRS) became applicable in phased manner from FY 2016-17.

India has made Goods and Service Tax (GST) effective from 1 July 2017, therefore GST will be now one indirect tax applicable across 29 States in India and will replace earlier applicable around 17 different transaction tax and cess. This will surely result in significant ease of doing business in India. Also, India's Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) inflows are at a record $60.1bn for 2016-17.

There are opportunities in the accountancy market since the implementation of new regulatory changes like IndAS implementation, GST implementation, ICDS (Income Computation and Declaration Standards). Businesses have highly automated their processes and high use of IT systems hence opportunities for IT audit and system audits.  There has also been an increase in merger and acquisition, resulting in opportunities for advisory services.

There are challenges such as the availability and stability of quality human resources, keeping pace with rapid regulatory changes, IT upgradation and rapid changes in ways of providing services.

I expect that there will be extensive use of information technology in providing accounting/ assurance and advisory services, as well as making the profession attractive for new talent and youngsters. Also the development in Indian Economy will result in boost in accounting profession.

Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has introduced new course curriculum which will result in enhancing knowledge of CAs and I expect that this will give opportunity for specialisation in core subjects.

 


By SKP India

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, having said so, the country faces certain challenges such as counterfeit currency and high cash dependancy. Under the pretext of these challenges, the government of India demonitised 500 Rupee and 1000 Rupee notes as legal tenders from 9 November 2016 effectively.

The Monetary Policy Department (MPD) with contributions from other departments of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), issued a report on Macroeconomic Impact of Demonetisation, which states; “Although demonetisation holds huge potential benefits in the medium to long-term, given the scale of operation, it was expected to cause transient disruption in economic activity.” Furthermore the report stated that demonetisation resulted in a sharp increase in the use of digital transactions.

Whether the move of demonetisation taken by the government was beneficial to the countries economy or not shall only be ascertained shortly. There have also been other regulatory and policy driven changes that are likely to have a significant impact on the business landscape in the country.

India is a developing economy with a population of more that 1.2 billion with ever increasing housing requirements. The unorganised real estate sector in India poses numerous challenges such as non completion of projects on time, thereby increasing interest risk of the homebuyers, absence of dispute resolution mechanism between builders and home buyers, etc. To cater to large housing demand and in a bid to organise the sector, Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) has been enacted by the government. RERA is expected to boost the investments into the real estate sector and provide adequate safeguards to the investors.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has granted exemptions to certain classes of private companies in terms of regulatory compliances. Smaller private companies will benefit a great deal from reduction in compliance. This move by the government would strengthen its stand bringing conducive environment for doing business in India.

India introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) with effect from 1 July 2017.  The GST is a path-breaking tax and business change and will subsume most of the existing indirect taxes.  The GST will be a unified tax throughout the country and will significantly affect product costing, supply chain management and sales strategies.

India has also signed the Multi-Lateral Instrument (MLI) under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Plans and has notified all its existing tax treaties to be covered under the MLI.

The government is working towards reducing the headline corporate tax rate from 30% to 25%.  To this effect, for small and medium companies, the headline corporate tax rate was reduced to 25%.

In line with the recommendations under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting  Action Plans, India has introduced the requirement of Country-by-Country-Reporting (CbCR) and maintenance of Master File under the Transfer Pricing Regulations. These requirements apply to taxpayers having consolidated group turnover greater than €750 million.

A series of measures have been introduced to simplify tax administration.  These include reduction in time limit for conclusion of Revenue Audits, speedier processing of tax refunds, reduction in number of cases being selected for Revenue Audit, introduction of issue based Revenue Audits (Limited Audits), launching of public response and grievance portal by different government departments, etc.

The General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) have been introduced under the domestic law with effect from 1 April 2017, after being in the making for close to 7 years.

Opportunities include the provisions of rotation have come into effect from 1 April 2014. The Companies Act, 2013 provides transition period of three years in order to ensure compliance with the rotation related provisions. As per the provisions, an individual shall not be appointed as statutory auditor for more than one term of five consecutive years and an audit firm shall not be appointed as statutory auditor for more than two terms of five consecutive years. The provision of rotation of auditors applies to only a certain class of companies.

The three-year transition period ends in 2017 and due to this a large portion of the companies need to change their auditors. This move has opened a sea of opportunities as well as challenges for auditing firms. A number of businesses in India will have to change their auditors from April 1, 2017. The government believes this move will enhance audit independence and audit quality that will further lead to more transparency and increased investor confidence.

The tax policy of the present government shows a remarkable shift towards making India a non-adversarial tax regime. The government’s stated policy objective is to rationalise the tax rates, reduce the multitude of tax exemptions and incentives and focus on voluntary compliance and reporting. Thus, the Indian tax environment is increasingly becoming simplified and compliance centric.

This policy change presents an opportunity as well as a threat.  Increasing compliance would mean taxpayers will increasingly require assistance from tax professionals to undertake and monitor the compliances.  At the same time, simplification of tax laws could reduce the scope for tax advisory and tax litigation.

The Indian accounting and auditing professional market is dominated by the presence of the big4 that has created an imbalance for Indian auditing firms. The need has been recognised widely to have Indian firms of comparable standing. With right enablers by the Indian Government and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, there is no doubt that the Indian firms would go global.

The policy initiatives of the government indicate that the government is actively focussing on increasing the compliance base in all respects to bring more enterprises under the financial and tax reporting framework.  With this backdrop, we expect that the reporting requirements and compliances will increase, the tax policy will become clearer and we could see a significant shift towards a non-adversarial tax regime in India.

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