We have tried to focus on some of the features of budget speech of the Hon’be Finance minister Shri Arun Jaitley in the Lok-Sabha today for the year 2018-19 as far as it concerns the disabled community. We often receive telephone calls from members asking if the limit of Rs. 1,25,000/- for exemption from Income Tax under section 80U has been raised. Obviously, they are looking forward to a raise for some time now. We are sorry that the Finance Minister has not announced any change in section 80U.
There is one good new for the disabled community. Transport allowance has been abolished for general salaried persons and a Standard Deduction of Rs. 40,000/- has been recommended in the budget speech. However, section 10(14) granting exemption of Rs. 3,200/- in Transport Allowance to an disabled employee to meet expenditure on commuting between place of residence and place of duty will continue as usual. So reintroduced Standard Deduction of Rs. 40,000/- is a bonus to the disabled salaried persons. However, the number of beneficiaries in this case will be too small.
We are disheartened as there is nothing in the budget speech for the National Handicapped Finance Development Corporation which was formed to support the disabled entrepreneurs. Nor there is any new incentive that will boost employment of the disabled people. Section 35AC providing 100% tax exemption on donation to notified socio-economic projects was abolished in the previous budget. We expected some new provision as a replacement of section 35AC for promoting socioeconomic welfare. Instead, we find a firm restriction on expenditure in cash above Rs. 10,000/- by trusts and institutions. We are not against bank transactions. Banking must be made accessible and bank officials more friendly.
Shri Jaitley laid emphasis on social protection programmes in his budget speech. The details are provided in Annexure II of the budget. There is some hope for us. Allocation has increased on assistance to disabled persons for purchase / fitting of aids and appliances from Rs. 150 crore in 2017-18 to Rs. 220 crore in 2018-19. Fund has also increased on schemes for implementation of Persons with Disability Act from Rs. 207 crore in the previous year to Rs. 300 crore in the coming fiscal year.
The Budget has introduced 10% social welfare surcharge on customs duty in lieu of 3% Education Cess. We are afraid, importers will not look at us with sympathy as we are supposed to reap benefits of this surcharge.