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Taking steps to fix GST loopholes, says Nirmala Sitharaman

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Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Saturday that the government was taking several steps such as using data analytics to plug loopholes in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) collection and prevent particular areas of misuse and gaming of the system.

During the last three months, the GST collection crossed Rs one lakh crore every month, she said addressing a press conference in Chennai on Budget 2020-21.

At the GST Council meetings, there was a feedback from state finance ministers about various loopholes due to which tax revenue was not accruing to the government, she said. To plug such loopholes and to halt particular areas of misuse and gaming of the system, a lot of steps were being taken, she said.

“Economy is at its robust level and macroeconomics is at its best. The fundamentals are strong. The foreign exchange reserves and FDI investments are at their maximum level,” she said.

She said that there is also a plan by Centre to increase the interaction of banking officials.

She exuded confidence that “India will get back to 8% growth” and said the government is making efforts to “pursue the goals”.

Revenue secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey said a targeted approach was being followed by tapping on data analytics and Artificial Intelligence and it has helped improve GST collections. In November the collection was close to ~1,04,000 crore and in December it was about Rs 1,03,000 crore, while in January it was around Rs 1,11,000 crore, he said.

The economy has improved and the improved collection was in view of several measures taken, he said. Citing use of data analytics, he said data from income tax, GST, customs, export and import was being mined.

A red flag report on areas of mismatch was prepared, he said, adding a large number of people were tax complaint and honest tax payers. It was only a fraction that might be a few thousand of GST taxpayers who required scrutiny, he said.

In cases of mismatch being up to a level, the tax payers are notified through a text message (SMS) and if it was large, officials are also notified to find out if the discrepancy was due to a genuine reason or otherwise.

Such targeted measures have helped the government improve the tax collections without any “overreach,” he said.

The government will continue to follow identification of problem areas. “We will continue this further and improve collection through data analytics and artificial intelligence so that people who are trying to gain the system are identified in their pursuit and honest taxpayers can be completely free of hassles,” he said.

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World Bank approves $1 billion emergency aid for India to combat Coronavirus outbreak

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Amid Coronavirus pandemic hitting the global economy, the World Bank on Thursday, approved $1 billion emergency financial aid for India to combat the coronavirus outbreak, which has taken 2,069 people in its grip in the country and has claimed 53 lives so far.

“In India, $1 billion emergency financing will support better screening, contact tracing, and laboratory diagnostics; procure personal protective equipment; and set up new isolation wards,” the World Bank said.

It has approved total aid of $ 1.9 billion for 25 poor countries with the largest amount of assistance being given to India, followed by $ 200 million for Pakistan, $ 129 million for Sri Lanka, $100 million for Afghanistan and $ 83 million for Ethiopia.

After this first round of aid for 25 countries, now another round of relief packages to 40 other countries will be given.

The emergency resources would include money to purchase critical medical supplies such as masks and ventilators and the World Bank will lend its procurement expertise to help obtain these supplies on global markets.

World Bank President David Malpass and Managing Director of IMF Kristalina Georgieva are asking the G-20 countries to support instituting a 14-month pause in requiring the poorest countries to make debt repayments.

The World Bank said that the next step is to grant up to $160 billion assistance over the next 15 months to support measures against the global fight to arrest COVID-19 pandemic, focussing on immediate relief and bolster economic recovery.

According to Malpass, the proposal for financial aid was discussed at last week’s conference call with US President Donald Trump and other G-20 leaders and further approval would be taken when the World Bank’s policy panel, the Development Committee, holds a virtual meeting on April 17.

The Coronavirus pandemic has infected over one million people worldwide on Friday as the number rose to 1,016,128 and claimed 53,146 lives. Meanwhile, 328 coronavirus cases have been reported in the last 24 hours in India.

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Indian airports hits a snag: Scarcity of slots

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With suspension of all international and domestic passenger flight services in India, due to the corona virus outbreak, some Indian airports are reeling under shortage of aircraft parking space.

The Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) airport in Kolkata which has 58 parking bays, now has a total of 53 aircraft parked inside. The outbreak has already dealt a massive blow to the Indian aviation industry and now some airports in the country are reeling under space crunch for aircraft parking.

Due to suspension of both domestic and international flights in India, many airlines have their aircraft grounded at several airports in the country. It recently came to light that the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport in Delhi is reportedly running out of space for aircraft parking and has hence made space in its remote bay area and hangars for the purpose.

The Kolkata airport though at present has space for parking but it is only a matter of time when the space runs out. A senior official in the Kolkata airport administration, today, told The Statesman, “At present, there are 53 parked aircraft in the Kolkata airport. The NSCBI airport has a total of 58 parking bays.”

Asked whether it already is witnessing paucity of space, the senior official pointed out, “For now, there is no space crunch since there is no flight operation at the airport. Only medical flights are operating, which are one or two at a time. We still have vacant space for parking aircraft.”

An airport official confirmed that 10 more parking bays are being made at the Kolkata airport which are expected to open by next year. It is learnt that more than 500 flights a week remain cancelled in India. Airlines such as Air India have reportedly grounded a large portion of its fleet while GoAir, Vistara and others have also followed suit.

The Indian ministry of civil aviation had issued travel advisories suspending all international and domestic passenger flight services till 31 March but it could get extended since the country is now in a 21 day lockdown, till 14 April.

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Apple releases iOS, iPadOS 13.4 with mouse, keyboard support and much more

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Apple on Wednesday released the software updates to the iOS 13 operating system, iOS 13.4 and iPadOS 13.4 with full mouse and trackpad support to iPads, iCloud Driver folder sharing and much more.

As per the reports and reactions, the major feature in the latest release is the mouse and keyboard support for iPads, which Apple revealed last week. Now, one can pair a mouse or trackpad with their iPad and use it to move a cursor on the display.

While the company plans to sell a new Magic Keyboard with a built-in trackpad, one does not need to buy a new iPad or accessory to access the feature.

The iOS and iPadOS 13.4 updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the updates, go to Settings > General > Software Update.

In addition to trackpad support, iOS and iPadOS 13.4 comes with several handful of features. One can share an iCloud Drive folder with another iCloud user, it works pretty much like a shared Dropbox folder.

Now there are nine new Memoji stickers. Apple has tweaked buttons to archive/delete, move, reply and compose and email in the Mail app.

Apple has also added the ability to release a single app binary on all App Stores, including the iOS and Mac App Store. This means that developers can release a paid app on the Mac and the iPhone and the user only have to buy it once.

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