Tax breaks for sovereign funds’ infra investments

During her Budget 2020 Speech, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a major tax concession on investments by sovereign wealth funds, including a 100 per cent exemption on interest, dividend and capital gains income on the investment made in infrastructure and other notified sectors.

February 1, 2020

To avail of these benefits, the investments by foreign sovereign wealth funds must be made before March 31, 2024, with a minimum lock-in period of three years

The Government of India has also decided to make foreign funds available at a lower cost, which is expected to bolster foreign direct investment in the country

It is estimated that global pension funds, along with sovereign wealth funds, could invest about US$50 billion in India’s infrastructure over the next five years

The Government of India has envisaged infrastructure investment of around US$1.4 trillion in the next five years 2025 to build a US$5 trillion economy

During her Budget 2020 Speech on February 1, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a major tax concession on investments by sovereign wealth funds, such as Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board. The Budget proposed a 100 per cent exemption on interest, dividend and capital gains income on the investment made in infrastructure and other notified sectors. She clarified that the investments must be made before March 31, 2024, and must have a minimum lock-in period of three years.

The government of India has also decided to make foreign funds available at a lower cost, which is expected to bolster foreign direct investment in the country. Ms. Sitharaman also announced an extension for the period for the concessional rate of withholding 5 per cent under section 194LD for interest payment to Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) and Qualified Foreign Investors (QFIs) on bonds issued by Indian companies and government securities up to June 30, 2023. 

Additionally, the government has reduced the withholding rate from 5 per cent to 4 per cent on interest payment on the listed bonds to incentivise the listing of bonds at the International Financial Services Centre exchange. This move is expected to encourage investments in priority sectors by sovereign wealth funds of foreign governments. 

Funds like ADIA and GIC have pumped millions of dollars into infrastructure projects such as the Mumbai Airport and IRB Infrastructure’s road platform respectively. Other key sovereign funds that have invested in the booming infrastructure space in India include Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), Qatar Investment Authority, and Russia’s RUSNANO. 

It is estimated that global pension funds, along with sovereign wealth funds, could invest about US$50 billion in India’s infrastructure over the next five years. Predictably, the trend has been encouraged by a sea change witnessed in policies including the grant of infrastructure status to the sector, emphasis on ‘Make in India’ and the introduction of GST. 

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently said that India should aim for the largest FDI share in the world. Government data shows that FDI into India grew by 15 per cent to US$26 billion during the first half of the current financial year.