ASCI releases draft rules for influencers

Source: LiveMint.com, Feb 22, 2021

NEW DELHI: The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has issued draft rules for advertising and promotions by influencers on digital media platforms to protect consumer interest as the watchdog seeks to oversee the burgeoning digital influencer market.

The mainstay of the new draft code is to clearly identify and label upfront that a said communication is an advertisement. “The biggest part of the new rules is to tell consumers that you are watching an ad and not content. That disclosure has to be in a prominent position,” said Manisha Kapoor, secretary general, ASCI.

Prominent labelling means people should not miss the disclosure and it should be suitable for all digital devices across phones, tablets and laptops. It needs to be visible regardless of the device used, or the platform such as website or app.

The nature of labelling has been specified for various digital media channels too such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The code has given guidance on the type of disclosure on the varied promotions such as a video, picture promotion or an audio. In case of audio, the disclosure label must be stated at the beginning and the end.

According to the code, filters should not be applied to social media advertisements if they exaggerate the claim that the brand is making. “In case of a shampoo ad, the influencer should not use a filter to make the hair look shinier,” said Subhash Kamath, chairman, ASCI, adding that the claims would also have to be truthful and honest.

The draft rules have been prepared in collaboration with digital and social media stakeholders and influencers. It is open for public discussion and suggestions can be given until 8 March. The final guidelines will be introduced by 31 March and it will be applicable to all promotional posts published on or after 15 April 2021.

The draft code requires an influencer to do due diligence of any technical or performance claims of the brands they promote. These could include claims such as “ 2X better, effect lasts for 1 month, fastest speed, best in class etc,” the guidelines said. Evidence of due diligence would include correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the specific claim made in the advertisement is capable of scientific substantiation. Influencer marketing is currently estimated at $75 million-$150 million, according to digital marketing agency AdLift.

GST officers to immediately suspend taxpayer’s registration for ‘significant anomalies’ in sales return

Source: The Economic Times, Feb 14, 2021

NEW DELHI: GST officers will immediately suspend registration of taxpayers whose sales return or GSTR-1 forms show “significant differences or anomalies” from the return filed by their suppliers, a move aimed at curbing tax evasion and safeguarding revenues.

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for suspension of registration of a person on observance of such discrepancies /anomalies which indicate violation of the GST Act.

As per the SOP, the registration of specified taxpayers shall be suspended and system generated intimation for suspension and notice for cancellation of registration in form GST REG-31, containing the reasons of suspension, shall be sent to such taxpayers on their registered e-mail address.

The registration would be suspended in cases where a comparison of the returns furnished by a registered person with the details of outward supplies furnished in form GSTR-1, or the details of inward supplies derived based on the details of outward supplies furnished by his suppliers in their GSTR-1, show ‘significant differences or anomalies’, indicating contravention of the provisions of the GST Act.

“Till the time functionality for FORM REG-31 is made available on portal, such notice/intimation shall be made available to the taxpayer on their dashboard on the common portal in Form GST REG-17.

“The taxpayers will be able to view the notice in the ‘View/Notice and Order’ tab post login,” the SOP said. Goods and Services Tax (GST) officers have already intensified their drive against fake invoicing and this has also contributed to increase in tax collections in the past couple of months.

GST collections have crossed the Rs 1 lakh crore mark for four consecutive months and surged to an all-time high of about Rs 1.20 lakh crore in January.

The SOP further said the taxpayers whose registrations are suspended would be required to furnish reply to the jurisdictional tax officer within 30 days from the receipt of such notice / intimation, explaining the discrepancies / anomalies and the reasons as to why their registration should not be cancelled.

Reply has to be sent to the jurisdictional officer through the common portal within 30 days from the receipt of notice / intimation.

In case the intimation for suspension and notice for cancellation of registration is issued on ground of non-filing of returns, the said person may file all the due returns and submit the response, the SOP added.

Centre hints at regulatory guidelines for social media

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Feb 11, 2021

New Delhi: A day after the Centre’s warning to Twitter, Union Cabinet Minister for Information Technology and Law Ravi Shankar Prasad indicated that stronger regulatory measures are on the anvil for social media. Prasad told Rajya Sabha on Thursday that his department and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry are working on specific guidelines for social-media platforms. “The work is in progress,” he said, and asked social-media platforms to strictly follow Indian laws and the Constitution, especially on reasonable restrictions to freedom of speech.

Prasad reiterated the government’s stated firmness on the direction to Twitter to suspend about 500 accounts and the counter-assertion by the microblogging site on grounds of freedom of speech. The Minister asserted that no platform is above the Constitution of the country. “We respect social media. It has empowered common people,” he said. But he said the Centre will not allow misuse of social media for spreading violence. “We have formed a platform to bust fake news. We appreciate the work that social-media platforms have done here, but they must respect the Constitution of India,” he said.

The Minister said the Centre is ceased of the standing committee recommendations for creating a set of guidelines. “The Ministries of IT and Information Broadcasting will review the guidelines soon. These platforms cannot make a law of their own where the Constitution has no place,” he said.

The US administration, on its part, maintained that it is committed to “supporting democratic values” in general and so far as the recent controversy over suspension of Twitter accounts is concerned, the matter would be dealt by the company individually.

“What I would say generally is that around the world, we are committed to supporting democratic values, including freedom of expression. I think when it comes to Twitter’s policies we would have to refer you to Twitter itself,” said US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price.

Prasad said the Centre is in touch with Twitter. “We have had a meeting with Twitter. If the Capitol Hill is attacked and the US police takes action, these micro blogging companies stand with them. But if the Red Fort is attacked, they stand with protesters. This double standard will not be allowed. Freedom of speech is subject to reasonable restrictions because of sovereignty and integrity of India. What is the reason for the hashtags such as ‘Narendra Modi massacre’ of farmers,” he said.

He maintained that the Centre is committed to freedom of speech. “This government is led by leaders who have fought for freedom of individuals, media and independence of judiciary particularly during Emergency. Our commitment to freedom of media is total. We are equally concerned about the safety, security and sovereignty of India,” he said.

Issues of privacy He said the Centre will also address the issues of privacy when we come up with a guidelines. “The work is in progress. I would urge the social media to measure the unbridled exposure on the standards of your own guidelines and take action,” he said.

Govt gives nod to several firms under PLI scheme for medical devices

Source: Business Standard, Feb 11, 2021

New Delhi: The government has approved applications from several medical devices manufacturers under the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the promotion of domestic manufacturing, an official statement said.

The companies include Siemens Healthcare, Sahajanand Medical Technologies,Nipro India Corporation and Wipro GE Healthcare, the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers said.

The setting up of these plants will lead to a total committed investment of Rs 729.63 crore by the companies and employment generation for about 2,304 persons, it added.

“The commercial production is projected to commence from April 1, 2022 and the disbursal of production linked incentive by the Government over the five years period would be up to a maximum of Rs 121 crore per applicant per target segment,” the statement said.

The setting up of these plants will make the country self-reliant to a large extent in the specified target segments in the medical devices sector, it added.

Applications were invited under four different target segments, including cancer care/radiotherapy medical devices, radiology and imaging and nuclear imaging devices, anaesthetics and cardio-respiratory medical devices, including catheters of cardio-respiratory category & renal care medical devices, and all implants including implantable electronic devices, the ministry said. The Department of Pharmaceuticals had launched a PLI scheme for promotion of domestic manufacturing of medical devices to ensure a level playing field for the domestic manufacturers with a total financial outlay of Rs 3,420 crore for the period 2020-21 to 2027-28, it added.

Food regulator FSSAI notifies regulations to limit trans fat in food items

Source: Business Standard, Feb 09, 2021

New Delhi: Food regulator FSSAI on Tuesday said regulations to limit the content of trans fat in all food items have been notified.

“With gazette of recent regulation to limit the content of trans fats in all food items, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) joins the league of several other nations globally having best practice policies for trans fat elimination,” the regulator said in a statement.

India joins the club of around 40 countries globally that have already enacted the best practice policies to eliminate trans fats and would be among the first countries in Asia after Thailand in achieving the best-practice policies in trans fat elimination, it said.

Under the regulation notified on December 29 last year, FSSAI said it has limited industrial TFA (trans fatty acids) to not more than 3 per cent in all fats and oils by January 2021 and not more than 2 per cent by January 2022.

The Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Second Amendment Regulations, 2021, has been notified earlier this month.

This regulation states that all food products in which edible oils and fats are used as an ingredient should not contain industrial trans fatty acids more than 2 per cent by mass of the total oils/fats present in the product, on and from January 1, 2022.

It also defines industrial trans fatty acids as: “All the geometrical isomers of mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids having non-conjugated, interrupted by at least one methylene group, carbon-carbon double bonds in the trans configuration. It excludes trans-fatty acids from dairy, meat, fish and their products.”

Industrial trans fats are produced by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid, which increases their stability at room temperature and extends shelf life. Trans fats are largely present in partially hydrogenated vegetable fats/oils, vanaspati, margarine and bakery shortenings. They are found in baked and fried foods.

“Research has shown that higher intakes of industrially produced trans fatty acids (more than 1 per cent of total energy intake) are associated with increased risk of high cholesterol and heart diseases,” FSSAI said.

According to 2017 estimates, every year more than 1.5 million deaths in India is attributed to coronary heart disease, of which nearly 5 per cent (71,000) are due to trans fats intake.

Elimination of industrial TFA has been recognized as one the modifiable risk factors to prevent heart diseaes.

“This is especially important in the present scenario, when COVID -19 is adding risk to people suffering from comorbidities like hypertension, heart diseases, diabetes etc,” it added. In 2018, the WHO called for elimination of industrially-produced trans fat from the food supply by 2023 and released an action package ‘REPLACE’ for the same.

Anti-dumping duties, countervailing duties altered to put brakes on cheap imports

Source: The Economic Times, Feb 03, 2021

NEW DELHI: In a move to protect the industry from cheap imports, India has introduced changes in the process and levy of anti-dumping duties, countervailing duties and safeguard duties.

As per the budget for FY22, with effect from July 1, the final findings in cases of reviewing anti-dumping and countervailing duty are to be issued at least three months before expiry of the duty. The Directorate General of Trade Remedies under the commerce and industry ministry issues these findings and recommends the duty to the finance ministry, which takes the final call. Read the rest of this entry »

Budget unveils changes in customs duties to promote domestic manufacturing

Source: The Economic Times, Feb 01, 2021

The Budget 2021-22 has unveiled a significant rejig in basic customs duties to promote domestic manufacturing and help India become part of the global value chain. Any new customs duty exemption will have validity up to March 31 following two years from the date of its issue, the budget has said, making it clear that any exemption or protection to domestic industry cannot continue endlessly.

Rejig was focussed on electronic and mobile, iron and steel, chemicals, auto parts, renewable energy, textiles, products manufactured by MSMEs and agri products to encourage local production. Customs duties have been increased on certain auto parts, parts of mobile phones and solar panels in order to provide impetus to domestic manufacturing. Read the rest of this entry »

Budget 2021 Highlights

Source: Times of India, Feb 01, 2021

NEW DELHI: Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget 2021 in Parliament on Monday.

The finance minister provided a major boost to healthcare and infrastructure in Union Budget 2021. However, there was no change in Income Tax slabs this year.

In her speech, the finance minister mentioned that this year’s budget proposals rest on six pillars — health and well-being, physical, financial capital and infrastructure, inclusive development for aspirational India, reinvigorating human capital, innovation and R&D and minimum government and maximum governance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the Union Budget 2021 has been presented amid unprecedented circumstances. He added that it is a proactive, not reactive budget and will boost India’s self-confidence. Read the rest of this entry »

New laws for auditor, company secretary bodies in offing

Source: The Economic Times, Jan 27, 2021

NEW DELHI: The government is set to amend laws to streamline the functioning, especially the disciplinary aspects, of three professional institutes — the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) and Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI).

A bill to amend relevant provisions of laws governing the three bodies is expected to be introduced during the second half of the budget session of Parliament. The idea is to step up oversight on the three bodies after a committee suggested several changes almost three years ago. In fact, some of the proposals have been accepted, the legal changes are being undertaken in consultation with the institutes.

ICAI itself has been open to changes in recent months and has sought to simplify the process in cases such as those where the Quality Review Board suggests disciplinary action against its members, who are chartered accountants.

The disciplinary track record of ICAI had come under the scanner a few years ago, with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagging it at the time of the launch of goods and services tax. Subsequently, the role of auditors had come under scrutiny after the collapse of IL&FS and the government had set up the National Financial Reporting Authority to look at important cases.

As part of the proposal, the government intends to have a say in the appointment of secretaries of the institutes and directors responsible for the discipline of the professionals. At one time, the ministry of corporate affairs, which is piloting the bill, was looking to appoint government officers in these roles.

The committee headed by Meenakshi Dutta Ghosh, a former civil servant, had suggested that the disciplinary platform should be independent of the institute while pointing out that the current mechanism needed to be revamped.

CBDT relaxes requirement of remunerating fund managers of offshore funds

Source: Business Standard, Jan 16, 2021

Mumbai: The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has relaxed the requirement of remunerating fund managers of certain offshore funds because of the amended Rule 10V for availing the special taxation regime under Section 9A.

The Section provides for a special taxation regime in respect of certain offshore funds in the context of their fund managers being located in India.

The CBDT has stated that for financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21 in cases where the remuneration paid to the fund manager is lower than the amount of remuneration prescribed under sub-rule (12) of Rule 10V, but is at arm’s length, there is no need to take CBDT nod for that lower amount to be the amount of remuneration.

However, the board’s permission will be required from FY21-22 if fees paid to the manager are lower than the prescribed amount.

The Finance Act 2019 had replaced one of the conditions requiring an arm’s length remuneration to be paid to the eligible fund manager for performing fund management activities, with a minimum remuneration to be paid under a prescribed methodology, which became effective from April 1, 2019.

The notification provided a window for applicants to seek approval from the board when the amount of remuneration is lower than prescribed. “Since it was not possible to comply with the provisions for FY19-20 and FY20-21, the CBDT has issued a notification stating that the remuneration paid by the fund manager, if lower than the amount prescribed shall be sufficient if it is at arm’s length for FY19-20 and FY20-21,” said Sunil Gidwani, Partner, Nangia Andersen.