Over 75% of poor households in India reported a decline in income as a result of road accident, says World Bank Report


New Delhi: More than 75 percent of poor households in India reported a decline in their income as a result of a road traffic crash, said a World Bank report released on Saturday.

The financial loss for the poor amounted to more than seven month’s household income, while it was equivalent to less than one month’s household income for rich households, said the findings of the report.

The report highlights the disproportionate impact of a road crash on poor households that pushes them into a vicious cycle of poverty and debt. It sheds light on the links between road crashes, poverty, inequality, and vulnerable road users in India.

The study was done in collaboration with SaveLIFE Foundation – a national non-governmental organization focused on road safety. Based on the survey data collected from around 2,500 respondents across four Indian states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, the research assesses the social, financial, gender, and psychological impacts of road crashes on poor and disadvantaged households.

The report recommends policy-oriented approaches for saving lives and improving the ability of victims and their families to get back on their feet, including providing immediate financial, medical and legal aid.

Speaking at the release of the report, union transport minister Nitin Gadkari said that automobile manufacturers should provide basic safety in vehicles at a minimum affordable price.

“We have taken a number of positive initiatives to reduce road crash deaths in India. With the support of all stakeholders in our society, I am committed to reducing road crash deaths by 50 percent by 2025,” Gadkari added.

The report also brings out the sharp rural-urban divide and the disproportionate impact on women. The survey shows that the income decline for low-income rural households (56 percent) was the most severe compared to low-income urban (29.5 percent) and high-income rural households (39.5 percent).

Women bore the burden of crashes across poor and rich households, often taking up extra work, assuming greater responsibilities, and performing caregiving activities after a crash.

About 50 percent of women were severely affected by the decline in their household income after a crash, the report revealed.

The study also documented low rates of access to insurance coverage and poor awareness related to legal compensation among truck drivers.

“Road crashes can have a devastating and disproportionate impact on the poor, thrusting a family into deep poverty,” Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia region was quoted as saying in a statement.

“The World Bank is committed to supporting the Indian government in creating safety nets for poor households to ease their financial burden and help them cope with the sudden emergency linked to road crashes,” Schafer added.

The report recommends making health infrastructure and coverage more accessible and inclusive, providing a social security net for crash victims from low-income households through state support, creating an accessible legal framework for availing insurance and compensation for road crash victims, among other measures.

“The findings of the report identify the areas that require immediate improvements such as efforts towards post-crash emergency care and protocols, insurance and compensation systems,” said Piyush Tewari, CEO and founder of SaveLIFE Foundation.



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Withdrawing super as disposable income could ‘increase economic growth’



Sky News contributor Peter Switzer says the option for people to be able to withdraw their superannuation from their paycheque has “a number of payoffs” as it could be used to stimulate the economy.

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income tax returns: 5% more income tax returns filed this year


NEW DELHI: Income tax returns filed this year have risen by about 5 per cent to nearly 6 crore as more businesses and entities filed annual income statements.

Over 5.95 crore income tax returns (ITRs) for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2020 (2019-20) were filed by January 10, the Income Tax Department said.

The ITR filing deadline for individuals ended on January 10 while for companies it is till February 15.

The tax department in a tweet said 5.95 crore ITRs for Assessment Year 2020-21 were filed till January 10, 2021, as compared to 5.67 crore ITRs filed for the previous Assessment Year by September 10, 2019.

The total returns for 2019-20 are 33.35 lakh higher than the previous year as total ITRs filed stood at 5.61 crore on the last date which was August 31, 2019.

“We gratefully acknowledge the efforts of our taxpayers & tax professionals,” it said sharing the data of ITRs filed for AY2020-21 up to January 10, 2021.

An analysis of the data showed that filing of tax returns by individuals for 2019-20 has slowed in the current year, while filing by businesses and trusts has increased.

Over 2.99 crore ITR-1 were filed till January 10 this year, lower than the 3.11 crore filed till September 10, 2019.

ITR-1 form is filed by resident individuals having income less than Rs 50 lakh in a year.

Over 1.49 crore ITR-4 were filed till January 10, as compared to 1.29 crore filed till September 10, 2019.

Returns in ITR-1 Sahaj are filed by individuals whose total income does not exceed Rs 50 lakh, while form ITR-4 Sugam is meant for individuals, Hindu Undivided Families (HUFs) and firms (other than Limited Liability Partnership) having a total income of up to Rs 50 lakh and having presumptive income from business and profession.

Over 46.12 lakh ITR-2 (filed by people having income from residential property, capital gains and foreign assets) were filed till January 10. ITR-5 (filed by LLP and Association of Persons) filings stood at 10.50 lakh, while ITR-6 (by businesses) filings were at 4.72 lakh.

Last year, ITR-6 filings till September 10, 2019, were 49,398. ITR-5 filings were 5.89 lakh.

ITR-7 (filed by persons having income derived from property held under trust) filings stood at 1.46 lakh till January 10, 2021, as compared to 65,298 last year.

Due to difficulties faced by taxpayers owing to the pandemic, the government pushed the deadline for filing ITR thrice — first from the normal deadline of July 31 to November 30, 2020, and then to December 31, 2020.

On December 30 last year, the government extended the deadline to file ITR for individuals by 10 days to January 10 and for businesses till February 15.

The Income Tax Department on Monday rejected demand for further extension of the deadline for filing returns where audit is required beyond February 15.

“CBDT passes order u/s 119 of Income-tax Act, 1961 in F No. 370153/39/2020-TPL dt 11th January, 2021, disposing off the representations for extension of due date for filing of Audit Report u/s 44AB, in compliance with the order of hon’ble Gujarat High Court dt 8th January, 2021,” the department had said in a tweet.

This was in response to the Gujarat High Court order dated January 8 in the case of the All India Gujarat Federation of Tax Consultants versus Union of India directing the finance ministry to look into the issue of extension of due dates for filing of audit report under Section 44AB of the Income Tax Act.

As per the provisions of the Act, the due date for filing of the audit report under Section 44AB is one month prior to the due date of filing of ITR which is January 15, 2021.



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Your 401(k) Could Soon Offer Annuities for Lifetime Income


Target-date funds are about to undergo a major face-lift. These asset-allocation funds in your 401(k), with end dates like 2030 or 2040 to match your expected retirement, will soon add more unusual investments—annuities and perhaps even private equity—to their stock/bond portfolio mix.

The biggest fund companies have been working for years to come up with a retirement income product that rivals annuities, which are insurance products. Now, thanks to recent regulation, they don’t need to. According to a survey of the largest target-date fund managers published in December by financial research firm Cerulli Associates, some 92% of target-date management firms expect that a deferred-income annuity allocation will be part of target-date investments in the future. Deferred-income annuities are insurance contracts in which the buyer gives an insurer a lump sum in exchange for guaranteed lifetime income that begins at a later date.

Theoretically, annuities are a sensible addition to target-date funds. For decades, the U.S. government and the financial-services industry have been trying to fix 401(k) plans because many employees don’t save enough and run out of assets. Like Social Security, lifetime annuity income would alleviate that.

The shift is coming now because of the 2019 passage of the Secure Act, which encourages annuity additions by reducing 401(k) plan sponsors’ potential legal liability for partnering with an annuity provider. It also allows greater portability of annuities. “Say you change employers, and your new employer’s plan does not [allow] that annuity,” says Shawn O’Brien, a Cerulli retirement markets analyst. “You can roll it over into an [individual retirement account]—ideally that annuity provider’s IRA—penalty-free and without the tax liability of terminating your annuity contract.”

Read More in Funds Quarterly

Though they aren’t yet available in any 401(k)s, both

BlackRock

(ticker: BLK) and

Wells Fargo

(WFC) announced annuity-linked target-date investments last year—BlackRock’s LifePath Paycheck and Wells Fargo’s Retirement Income Solution.

Yet these aren’t mutual funds, but collective investment trusts, or CITs, institutional investments available only through 401(k)s and other qualified retirement accounts. The CIT is an increasingly popular structure for portfolios in 401(k) plans, and 40% of the some $2 trillion in target-date strategies is in CITs.

“We have about $45 billion in target-date mutual funds and about $200 billion in [target date] CITs,” says Nick Nefouse, BlackRock’s head of LifePath strategies. Because CITs aren’t regulated like mutual funds, there are fewer legal hurdles for including annuities. “I am laser-focused on LifePath Paycheck in collective investment trusts,” says Nefouse. “Once we’re close to getting that done, we’ll shift to mutual funds.”

Both BlackRock and Wells Fargo are working on getting 401(k) plan sponsors to adopt the new products—a tough endeavor, as sponsors move slowly in this highly regulated arena. Yet interest in guaranteed-income investments has spiked because of 2020’s volatility, according to Cerulli.

BlackRock has been trying to simulate lifetime-income strategies since at least 2014, with a series of CoRI target-date funds, such as

BlackRock CoRI 2023

(BCZAX), that provide employees with an estimated amount of retirement income for life if they follow BlackRock’s CoRI retirement calculator’s savings recommendations. Yet such estimates aren’t the same as an annuity’s guarantee, and don’t address longevity risk—that someone lives much longer than the statistical average in retirement calculations.


There’s going to be an evolution that is going to be absolutely great.


— Nick Nefouse, head of LifePath strategies at BlackRock

The new LifePath Paycheck will be paired with lifetime-income annuities underwritten by the Equitable Financial Life Insurance and Brighthouse Life Insurance companies. When its investors reach age 55, the CIT will begin shifting as much as 30% of the overall portfolio from bonds to what Nefouse calls “lifetime income units,” which are “liquid,” or tradable; modeled on BlackRock’s CoRi’s allocation strategies; and represent the CIT’s underlying group annuity contracts. After age 59½, which is the 401(k) minimum retirement age, investors can convert their group annuity contract into an individual annuity contract for which they will start receiving lifetime income immediately.

Historically, high fees and a lack of transparency have plagued the annuity industry. But much of that bad reputation has been for annuities sold to individual investors with high commissions. BlackRock is the largest asset manager in the world, and famous for its low-cost index exchange-traded funds. “Our institutional target-date funds generally have investment management fees of about [0.1%] or less,” says Nefouse. Although fees haven’t been disclosed yet, the annuities that BlackRock will offer via 401(k) target-date products will be institutionally priced with no commissions, he says.

Yet opacity and complexity are still problems. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that managers can structure their annuity target-date products very differently. Wells Fargo’s Retirement Income Solution employs a Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract, or QLAC, structure that requires a smaller allocation in the CIT—15%—than BlackRock’s, but the annuity pays income only after the investor reaches age 85. If the investor dies before that age, his or her heirs get the entire premium paid for the annuity. “One of the reasons for using the QLAC is that, relative to the rest of the portfolio, the annuity is more expensive,” says Nate Miles, head of retirement at Wells Fargo Asset Management. “So, by pushing the date out and minimizing the allocation, we can minimize the impact of that higher cost.”

High costs, opacity, and illiquidity are also problems that plague the private-equity sector, yet some 30% of managers in the Cerulli survey said they would consider offering that option or are actively looking into it after the U.S. Department of Labor issued a letter approving of such investments in 401(k)s last June.

While Nefouse says annuities in 401(k)s are imminent, private equity is still in its early days: “Think about target-date funds not in 2020 or 2021, but in 2035,” he says. “There’s going to be an evolution that is going to be absolutely great.”

Whether target-date investors will feel the same way remains to be seen.

Email: editors@barrons.com

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Australians on welfare face $100-a-week income cut as Covid supplement is further reduced | Welfare


More than two million welfare recipients are facing a $100-a-week cut to their incomes from Friday when the federal government further tapers the coronavirus supplement.

Welfare campaigners, Labor and the Greens are among the groups calling on the government to reverse course before the fortnightly supplement added to most social security payments is reduced to $150 a fortnight.

It means that from 1 January about 1.3 million people on the jobseeker payment will receive a base rate of $715.70 a fortnight, down from about $1,115 at the height of the pandemic.

The opposition has argued that winding back the supplement will hurt the economic recovery, while the Australian Council of Social Service says many people are facing a crowded labour market and will no longer be able to afford essential items.

The former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser added his voice to calls for a permanent increase to the jobseeker payment on Wednesday, telling the Sydney Morning Herald it should be raised by 50-100%.

Caryn Ryan, 64, of Hoppers Crossing in Melbourne’s west, said she felt “sick” as she awaited a further cut to her welfare payments in the new year.

“My stomach is in a knot today,” she told Guardian Australia.

Ryan, who asked for her maiden named to be used, said she was also battling leukaemia and worried about choosing between medication, meals and paying her mortgage.

“I have no other family, if I lose this home, I have nowhere to go,” she said.

Ryan has been on the jobseeker payment – formerly known as Newstart – for eight years after losing her job due to poor health. She said that the old jobseeker payment of about $565 a fortnight, or $40 a day, was insufficient.

Jobseeker is slated to return to that rate at the end of March. At that level, Ryan said she was normally left with about $40 a fortnight after her mortgage was paid.

“You can’t exist on that,” Ryan said. “I would love to speak to Mr Morrison. I know they get him on Zoom, on breakfast TV, on Sunrise, I would love the opportunity to say to his face, ‘The real world people on Newstart or these people who lost their jobs throughout Covid, they can’t survive, let alone live [on that payment].’”

The supplement began at $550 a fortnight in April, but was cut to $250 in September. It is paid to about two million people who receive jobseeker, student and parenting payments. Government data shows that a further one million children live in families receiving the supplement.

Several studies have found the original supplement drastically reduced poverty in Australia just as the country entered its first recession in nearly three decades.

Acoss has called for a minimum income floor of $944 a fortnight across all welfare payments, which would mean a $370 increase to the pre-Covid rate of the jobseeker payment.

Cassandra Goldie, the Acoss chief executive, said the original coronavirus supplement had allowed welfare recipients to “pay their rent and bills, buy fresh fruit and vegetables, get the medical care they needed and regularly eat three meals a day”.

“As 2021 begins and everyone tries to put 2020 behind them, people without paid work will be trying to get by on just $50 a day, which simply isn’t enough to cover housing, food, transport and bills,” she said.

Ryan questioned how politicians could not see that the payments were insufficient.

“Somebody decided $550 more was needed,” she said. “If they could comprehend that then, why can’t they comprehend that we need that all the time?”

The social services minister, Anne Ruston, said on Tuesday the tapering of the payment did not represent a cut.

“To construe it as any cut is not correct,” Ruston said. “We need to be clear here that it is actually a continuation of elevated levels of support.

“When we put it in place in March, we said it was in place for six months. We extended it in September for a period, and we are now extending it again.

“It’s an additional $3.2bn of taxpayers’ funds that will be supporting unemployed Australians for that three-month period.”



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India-Lanka MoUs to streamline housing for low income and homeless families


Colombo, December 18 (newsin.asia): the High Commissioner of India Gopal Baglay and Secretary, State Ministry of Rural Housing and Construction & Building Materials Industries Promotion of Sri Lanka  Keerthi Ranjith Abesiriwardhana signed on Friday, four MoUs towards streamlining the implementation mechanisms of the ongoing Model Village and three Gram Shakti Housing Projects. The signing ceremony was held in the presence of State Minister Indika Anuruddha.

These MoUs would pave the way for releasing instalment for the houses as advance payment enabling quicker implementation of the projects, the Indian High Commission said in a release.

2400 houses for homeless, low income families across the island are being constructed under the four housing programmes at a total cost of SLR 1.2 billion. 600 houses under the Model Village Housing Project are evenly spread across the 25 Districts of Sri Lanka. 1200 houses are being built under two Gram Shakti Housing Projects in the Southern Province and an additional 600 houses are being built in the Northern Province under the Gram Shakti Housing Project.  96 houses have already been completed under the four programmes. All these projects are being executed through National Housing Development Authority, Government of Sri Lanka.

The above four housing schemes are in addition to Government of India’s flagship Indian Housing Programme under which close to 50,000 houses have already been constructed. Construction of another 10,000 houses is also being undertaken in plantation areas of Sri Lanka.

Housing projects across the island are aligned with people-oriented, community-driven developmental assistance programmes by Government of India in Sri Lanka.  India’s overall commitment of development assistance in the island nation stands at a total of around US$ 3.5 billion. Out of this, close to US$ 560 million are being offered as grants.  India’s development assistance projects in Sri Lanka are spread across diverse sectors viz. Education, Research & Training; Health & Medical Care; Industrial Development; Livelihood & Shelter; Transport; Vocational Training and Art, Sports & Culture.

END



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Landlords with undeclared rental income urged to ‘come clean’ with taxman or face big penalties


Landlords and buy-to-let property investors who have undeclared rental income have been warned to seek advice and come clean with the taxman – or face stiff penalties.

Shenward, a Yorkshire-based firm of chartered accountants and business advisors, says HMRC officials are currently pursuing individuals they believe may be underpaying income tax.

The Bradford-based company has seen a recent increase in enquiries from landlords who have received warning letters from HMRC.

Since 2013, HMRC has run its Let Property Campaign aimed at tracking down landlords, both amateur and professional, who fail to declare rental income on their tax returns.

The campaign covers individual property investors who owe income tax or capital gains tax on buy to let, houses in multiple occupation or holiday lets in the UK or overseas.

HMRC has the power to collect information from estate agents, mortgage lenders and local authorities and can use this to pursue those they suspect of avoiding tax.

Tax officials can launch a financial investigation going back 20 years and impose substantial penalties and back-dated interest on the tax owed.

In the most serious cases criminal charges could be brought resulting in prison sentences.

A feature of the Let Property Campaign is that if landlords make contact first over unpaid tax the penalties could be less severe.

Sherad Dewedi, managing partner at Shenward, said the firm had recently been approached by several individuals who had received letters from HMRC and urged anyone with concerns over potential tax liabilities not to wait.


“We believe that HMRC have statutory powers to recover data from lettings agents and their landlord clients – and are working through who is registered and who is not,” said Mr Dewedi.

“Those impacted are being required to extract the relevant financial information and declare letting incomes, going back as far as 20 years in the worst cases. Interest and penalties will accrue on late payments.

“Our advice is not to wait for HMRC to come calling. The taxman is likely to show a degree of leniency to those who come forward and declare unpaid taxes. The alternative is potentially big fines and possible criminal prosecution.”

HMRC has previously estimated there are 1.63 million private landlords in the UK but only around 500,000 regularly file tax returns.

In 2019 HMRC found 11,129 landlords either under-paid or failed to pay income tax on rental income compared to 8,704 in 2018.

The Revenue reclaimed £44.7 million in tax from landlords last year, up from £32.8 million the year before.

Mr Dewedi added: “It pays for landlords to come clean with HMRC and make a full disclosure.

“We understand that in recent years some families may have become buy-to-let landlords almost by default due to bereavements or children going off to university but even though they may not consider their rental property a business as such doesn’t mean this shouldn’t be declared and any taxes paid.

“Our advice is: ‘Act now.’”





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Federal Budget hole to hit $442b, but report suggests increasing spending on welfare, GST relief and income tax cuts


The coronavirus crisis will punch a $442 billion hole in the federal budget, an economic forecaster suggests while calling on the Federal Government to carry deficits in order to boost welfare, reduce the rate of the goods and services tax and lower personal taxes.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will release the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) later this week, which is expected to show a better bottom line.

In the October budget, Mr Frydenberg revealed a record estimated deficit for this financial year of $214 billion, which was predicted to drop in time but remain at $66.9 billion by 2023-24.

But the pace of the recovery over recent weeks, including a higher-than-expected 3.3 per cent rebound in GDP over the three months to September, surprised many economists.

Deloitte Access Economics’ latest budget monitor suggests MYEFO will show lower spending due to savings on the JobKeeper wage subsidy and other measures.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will release the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) later this week, which is expected to show a better budget bottom line.(ABC News: Marco Catalano)

But there will still be an almost half-a-trillion-dollar budget hole, with an underlying cash deficit of $210.3 billion in 2020-21, $103.7 billion in 2021-22, $76.2 billion in 2022-23 and $51.7 billion in 2023-24.

And while China’s trade war with Australia was hurting everything from lobsters to wine, Deloitte Access Economics partner Chris Richardson said it was “making us money rather than losing it”.

Deloitte Access Economics' Chris Richardson speaks at the National Press Club, 12 April 2017.
Deloitte Access Economics partner Chris Richardson said the trade war with China was “making us money rather than losing it”.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

Call for Government to step in now the Reserve Bank is ‘offline’

Dr Richardson said central banks around the world had limited influence on economic activity now that interest rates were at or near zero.

Australia’s cash rate remains at a record low of 0.10 per cent and Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe has said interest rates will remain low for at least the next three years.

In that context, Dr Richardson said the Federal Government needed to continue to use whatever levers it could to propel the economy.

“Until now, budgets could concentrate on longer-term issues and leave the Reserve Bank to handle the ups and downs of the economy by raising or lowering interest rates,” Dr Richardson said.

“But it may be a number of years before the Reserve Bank is back online.”

He said the Federal Government would need to think about introducing temporary relief including boosting welfare spending, temporary cuts to the goods and services tax (GST) and further personal income tax cuts.

“The conversation needs to be, can the Government provide some help?” he said.

“The difficulty with that is that governments aren’t used to thinking about it. And the public, the media and the Opposition aren’t used to thinking about it.”

RBA building
Central banks around the world, including the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), are limited in what they can do to influence the economy when interest rates are near zero.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

MYEFO expected to show an improved Budget bottom line

Dr Richardson said extending the JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplement, at a lower rate of $150 per fortnight until March 31, came at a cost of $3.2 billion this year.

There was a further $240 million put into extending the HomeBuilder grant until the end of March (although the current rate is due to reduce after December 31).

But there would be spending savings as JobKeeper and other stimulus measures taper off.

At the same time, MYEFO would show higher tax receipts with more people in jobs, and higher-than-expected profits, especially off the back of the high iron ore price.

“And that’s true even though a range of new spending has been announced since the budget, including on vaccines (as well as vaccine manufacturing capability), at a cost of $1 billion over 12 years,” Dr Richardson said.

“That outperformance — versus the [earlier] official forecasts — may lift to more than $15 billion by 2023-24.”

Dr Richardson said Treasury were conservative forecasters, “and they’ve become even more careful about building wriggle room into their budget forecasts during COVID”.

A close up of a female carpenter's hand marking up a piece of timber.
There was $240 million put into extending the HomeBuilder grant until the end of March.(Flickr: El Gringo)

Debt and deficits no longer as big a deal as they were pre-COVID

Deloitte Access Economics sees the economy larger than what Treasury projected by $33 billion in 2020-21 alone, a gap that widens to $106 billion by 2023-24.

It forecasts revenue gains of between $5.2 billion (in 2020-21), lifting to $14.7 billion (in 20233-24), helped along by the higher iron ore price and faster-than-expected recovery from the COVID crisis.

Spending will be $1.9 billion in 2020-21, with savings on JobKeeper from the healthier economy more than offset by the cost of extra policy spending, including on extending the end date of the Coronavirus Supplement and HomeBuilder, plus extra vaccine spending.

Dr Richardson said deficits were no longer as big a deal as they used to be.

The fact the credit ratings of Victoria and NSW had been recently downgraded was not a measure of the quality of budget settings.

“They merely assess the risk that those who lend to governments will be repaid,” Dr Richardson said.

He said governments needed to continue to spend to lift economies out of crisis.

Last week CBA released analysis saying that the faster-paced recovery, higher iron ore earnings and less demand for JobKeeper would drive the 2020-21 deficit down to $204 billion.



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