A sign stands outside the North Block of the Central Secretariat building, which houses the Ministries of Finance (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Cabinet To Take Up Budget Overhaul; Session Likely From January 24

The Cabinet may next week take up the proposal for merging the Railway Budget with the General Budget and advancing the Parliament session by about a month to January 24 so as to complete all legislative work before the beginning of the new fiscal from April.

While early convening of the Budget session may become a norm in the years to come, the winter session of Parliament is likely to be convened on November 12 this year to get supporting legislation for the Goods and Services Tax rollout approved early.

The finance ministry is overhauling the Budget-making exercise which may see scrapping of the current practice of presenting a separate budget for the Railways as well as shifting to multi-year outcome-based budgeting, sources said. Till now the Budget session was convened in the third or fourth week of February, and the Union Budget presented on the last date of the month. This led to the legislative approvals taking place in two phases spread between February and May. In order to get all tax proposals and expenditure on schemes to kick in from the beginning of the new fiscal on April 1, the Budget session of Parliament is likely to be convened on January 24, sources said.

The Economic Survey is likely to be presented on January 30 and the Union Budget on January 31.

Keen to meet the April 1 target to roll out the landmark Goods and Services Tax (GST), the government may advance the winter session of Parliament by a fortnight to November 12 to get supporting legislations passed, leaving sufficient time for implementation of the new indirect tax regime. The winter session is normally convened in the third or fourth week of November but this year the government is looking at starting the month-long session immediately after the end of the festive season.

An early winter session would help get the Central GST (CGST) and Integrated GST (IGST) legislations, that will pave way for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), to be approved by November or at the latest by early December, sources said. The two are supporting legislations to the Constitutional Amendment Bill approved by Parliament last month, would list out the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST, threshold limits, GST rates including the floor rates with bands, special rates for raising additional resources during natural calamities/disasters and special provisions for certain States.