India is one of the fastest growing emerging economies in the world. It was the 20th largest export economy globally (2017) and is a world leader in IT.
India is a relatively low-cost region in which to operate and has a skilled workforce, enabling companies to use it as a strategic and operational support centre for wider operations. It is a major exporter of IT services, particularly in business process outsourcing and software services, which is the fastest growing part of the economy.
The Indian government is undergoing a series of economic reforms to increase efficiencies in doing business with the global economy and seeks to overcome its historical limitations, particularly to FDI. These have culminated in the privatisation of state-owned enterprises, the reduction of financial controls, industrial deregulation and the increase of FDI caps. India's largest trading partner is the European Union (EU), followed by China and the US.
India's banking sector is heavily influenced by state-owned banks, with the government holding majority stakes in two of the five largest banks. There are 19 public sector banks, 40 private sector banks and 45 foreign banks.
Corporate Treasury in India
India is the fastest-growing emerging economy in the world, and a global leader in information technology. Here, we highlight some of the key factors relevant to treasury and cash management in India.
Financial Market Development
- The World Economic Forum ranks India 42nd in the world for financial market development in The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018.
- It ranks India 78th for the soundness of its banks, while corruption and access to finance are seen as the biggest barriers to doing business there.
- The Indian rupee (INR) is a closed currency. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has imposed capital controls in the past, such as in August 2013 when it cut overseas remittances by individuals to USD 75,000 from USD 200,000, and reduced overseas investments by Indian companies by three-quarters.
- In November 2016, large-denomination bank notes were removed from circulation and strict bank withdrawal limits were imposed. These limits have since been lifted and new bank notes have been introduced.
Sophistication of Banking Systems
- India's banking sector is heavily influenced by state-owned banks, with the government holding majority stakes in two of the five largest banks. There are 19 public sector banks, 40 private sector banks, and 45 foreign banks, as well as more than 50 regional rural banks.
- Daily foreign exchange turnover averaged USD 34 billion in April 2016, accounting for 0.5% of global turnover (Bank for International Settlements triennial global survey 2016).
- India's bond market is not well-developed. Government bonds account for 70% of India's debt market, with large banks dominating the corporate bond sector. Total issuances outstanding stood at USD1.5 trillion at the end of 2017.
- India is a member of the Asian Clearing Union.
- The banking system in India is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Regulation is in line with international standards. RBI approval is required in certain cases for the repatriation of funds.
- The corporate income tax is 30% for Indian companies. However, for companies that have a turnover of INR2.5 billion for financial year 2017/2018, the corporate income tax will be reduced to 25%. A surcharge of 7% on income up to INR10 million and 12% on income above INR100 million is also imposed.
- As for foreign companies, the corporate income tax is 40%, with a surcharge of 2% on income up to INR10 million and 5% on income above INR100 million.
- Resident companies are taxed on worldwide income. Foreign companies are taxed on income that is received or generated in India.
- Foreign companies are considered to be resident in India if they have a Place of Effective Management in India.
- There is no branch profits remittance tax on remittance of profits by the branches of foreign companies to their head offices.
- Interest income received by a foreign company is subject to a withholding tax of 20% plus surcharge and cess. Under certain circumstance, the withholding tax rate on the interest will be reduced to 5% plus surcharge and cess.
- Interest expenses that are used for business purposes are generally tax deductible. There are no thin capitalisation rules in India.
- Indian companies distributing or declaring dividends are charged a dividend distribution tax of 15% (plus 12% of surcharge and 3% education cess).
- A securities transaction tax of between 0.01% and 0.125% is charged depending on the nature of the securities.
- Capital gains tax is charged at 10%, 15% or 20% depending on the type of asset and whether the gains are long term or short term.
- Tax incentives are available to certain industries operating in Special Economic Zones (SEZs). For example, offshore banks and international financial services centres that meet certain conditions are eligible for a 100% tax exemption on specified income for five years and a 50% concession for a further five years.
- Goods and services tax (GST) is charged at 0% to 28% depending on the nature of the goods or services involved and the individual state. There are also special rates and GST compensation cess on certain goods. The export of goods and services is zero-rated.
- Resident companies are charged withholding tax of 10% on interest and dividends. Foreign companies pay withholding tax of 5% or 20% on interest, depending on the nature of the payment. Where a tax treaty is in place, withholding tax on interest ranges from 0% to 15%, and withholding tax on dividends ranges from 5% to 25%.
- India has tax treaties with more than 90 countries and territories.
- India is a signatory to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, through which information is exchanged between tax administrations, to provide a single, global picture on some key indicators of economic activity within multinational enterprises.
Benefits for Local Treasury
- India has a pro-business government that is relaxing foreign direct investment (FDI) rules.
- The RBI is broadening the country’s derivative and debt markets.
- Two Indian banks have joined SWIFT’s global payments innovation initiative, improving cross-border payment infrastructure.
- India is a relatively low-cost region in which to operate and has an adequately skilled workforce, enabling companies to use it as a strategic and operational support centre for wider operations.
- Resident and non-resident companies are permitted to participate in cross-border sweep structures, but for non-resident companies, foreign-exchange control rules and withholding tax on inter-company loans apply.
- Cash concentration is available, but non-residents may have to pay withholding tax on interest.
- Notional pooling is not permitted in India.
- State-run banks are a significant part of India's banking sector, with the government owning a majority stake in two of the top five banks: State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank. Private banks HDFC, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank round out the top five.
- There are 19 public sector banks (controlling 70% of the banking sector), 40 private sector banks, 45 foreign banks, 56 regional rural banks, 1,552 urban cooperative banks and 98,550 rural cooperative banks, with further financial support from cooperative credit institutions.
- The government announced in 2014 that it would reduce its stake in state-run banks, although it also planned to boost struggling state-owned banks with private sector expertise and a central banking body, the Bank Board Bureau.
- Residents are permitted to open foreign currency and INR accounts domestically. Foreign currency accounts both in India and overseas are subjected to certain conditions prescribed by the RBI.
- Non-residents (as defined under Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999) can open INR account in India, subject to conditions prescribed by the RBI.
Legal and Regulatory
- The RBI's Board for Financial Supervision oversees India’s banking sector, with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development overseeing provincial rural and most cooperative banks under the auspices of the RBI. The RBI also implements foreign currency controls.
- A resident company must be registered under the Companies Act 2013 and rules made there under.
- A company incorporated outside India can enter Indian markets as a Wholly Owned Subsidiary in India or as a Joint Venture Partner of an Indian Company. A company incorporated outside India can also set up a branch, project office or liaison office in India under various regulations.
- India has anti-money laundering legislation in place and is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It also operates the Financial Intelligence Unit under the Ministry of Finance, which is tasked with safeguarding the financial system from the abuses of money laundering, terrorism financing and other economic offences.
(Unified Payments Interface)
India’s national real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system
Cheque Truncation System
National Automated Clearing Services
National Electronic Funds Transfer
Bharat Bill Payment System
(Immediate Payment Service)
Interbank Mobile Payments Service
(Aadhaar Enabled Payment System)
- High-value (more than INR 200,000) and urgent credit transfers settled via NG–RTGS in approximate real time.
- Low-value, non-urgent, bulk credit transfers settled via NACH same day.
- One-to-one electronic payments settled via NACH or NEFT same day.
Direct Debits (auto debits)
- NACH Debit used for regular transfers for transactions up to INR 10,000,000 and supports both C2B and B2B Payments.
- Settled via NACH on T+0.
- Declining in popularity as digitised payments become more popular.
- Visa and MasterCard are the main brands of credit card used, and these are cleared next day.
- RuPay is a domestic debit and credit card payment network used at ATMs, POS devices and e-commerce websites. It is operated by the NPCI.
- Most card credits and debits are processed by National Financial Switch (NFS) and settled via the Clearing Corporation of India (CCIL) same or next day.
- Electronic money schemes are available through top-up prepaid cards.
- Multi-application cards have been introduced by the RBI for use in banking, postal and financial services. The banks authorised to issue these cards are: ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Oriental Bank of Commerce.
- In 2016, the government took extreme measures as part of a demonetisation programme aimed at becoming a cashless society. This has been the main driver in the country’s fast adoption of financial technology (fintech).
- India was the second fastest country to adopt financial technology (fintech) in 2017, with 52% of digitally active consumers adopting the technology (EY Fintech Adoption Index).
- The government has provided initiatives such as the establishment of UPI and Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS), and an application programming interface (API) aimed at increasing efficiencies in payments and banking systems through the provision of a unique identification number for every Indian resident.
- The government has set up an eight-member steering committee to supervise the development of the fintech sector and formulate regulations that allow a more flexible environment and promote financial inclusion to ensure that every Indian has a bank account.
- Maharashtra is the first Indian state to launch a fintech policy that aims to establish a global fintech hub in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
- Digital wallets are forecast to overtake credit cards as the preferred online payment method, driven by government initiatives and incentives by retailers. The most popular digital wallets are Paytm, PayPal, Mobikwik and Freecharge. Amazon Pay and Google Tez also have a significant user base.
- WhatsApp payment services, supported by its parent company Facebook, launched in India, where the messaging app has its largest number of users globally. Payments are currently processed by HDFC Bank, ICIC Bank and Axis Bank, with the State Bank of India due to follow.
- The RBI has implemented strict regulations regarding know-your-customer (KYC) guidelines in preparation for interoperability measures between prepaid payment instruments (PPI), bank accounts and payment cards.
- Mobile wallet adoption in India is one of the highest in the world (Consumer Payments Insight Survey).
- Digital banking has been mainly targeted at the retail sector. The coverage will be extended to corporate and SME banking.
- Cryptocurrency is not legal tender, and the government has taken measures to curtail or halt virtual exchange activity. The central bank has said it will no longer deal with or provide services to any individual or businesses dealing with or settling virtual currencies.
Cash, Cheques and Money Orders
- Despite the demonetisation programme, cash has had a resurgence in popularity.
- There’s been a significant drop in cheque usage as digitised payments become more popular.
- Cheques truncated and processed via CTS through grid system, which is divided into three grids.
- Money orders are a common service provided by India Post, which offers electronic (eMO), instant (iMO) and international (IFS) orders. Western Union and MoneyGram also operate in the country.
RBI Mulls e-Payment Regulation
The Reserve Bank of India is considering regulating e-payments in a bid to improve the stability and security of the digital payments ecosystem. The central bank said it was looking at the feasibility of directly regulating payment operators, and it plans to publish draft guidelines for consultation soon. Payment providers have boomed in recent years, but issues such as the fees businesses pay for accepting digital transactions and redress for consumers when e-payments fail have not been resolved.
Read more about the development here.
UPI Payments Pass INR1 Trillion Threshold
Transactions carried out through India’s flagship payments platform the United Payments Interface (UPI) broke through the INR1 trillion threshold in December. A total of 620 million transactions were carried out during the month, worth a total of IRN1.02 trillion, a 25% increase on November’s figure, according to data from the National Payments Corporation of India. But the Government’s UPI app, Bharat Interface for Money, saw a fall in transactions as it continued to face competition from private sector players.
Read more about the development here.
Blockchain Blueprint Published
India’s Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT) has published a blueprint on how blockchain can be implemented in the banking sector. The blueprint sets out protocols on how the technology can be adopted by banks in several areas to enable financial institutions to interact through decentralised platforms, as well as establishes mechanisms for regulatory supervision. The IDRBT was set up by the Reserve Bank of India to carry out research into new technology in the banking sector.
Read more about the development here.
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Sources: The World Economic Forum The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018; IMF; Bank for International Settlements; Export.gov; Reserve Bank of India; Economic Times (India); PwC; OECD
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