Govt may tinker with tax rates to boost economy: Chidambaram

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Government today indicated that it may tinker with the excise duties and service tax rates in the interim budget in an apparent bid to boost economy but may not pursue key reforms legislations due to lack of political consensus.

Addressing a press conference on the eve of Parliament session, Finance Minister P Chidambaram today said his vote-on-account budget to be presented in the Lok Sabha on February 17, will be short, between 12 and 18 pages, on which he would prefer a debate.

"In 2004, Mr Jaswant Singh made a 12-page speech. In 2009, Mr Mukherjee made an 18-page speech. So I have two numbers to choose from between 12 to 18. We can make any proposal short of amending any law.

"We cannot propose amendments to the Income Tax Act, Customs Act or the Excise Act. But any proposal short of amending a law can be made. We can also outline vision for the future," he said.

Replying to questions, he said, whatever changes are required to be made to excise rates or service tax rates without an amendment to the law "are being made and will be made".

"We have made a couple of changes last week. We will continue to make those changes until the term of this government if they do not require Parliamentary legislation or sanction. We will have to notify the changes and place the notification in Parliament."

As regards the Insurance Bill, which seeks to raise FDI cap in the sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent, Chidambaram said it was not likely to be taken up in Parliament session beginning February 5, the last one of the current Lok Sabha.

"In the Insurance Bill they (opposition parties) have made it very clear it will not pass it (in the upcoming session)", he said, adding that there is no consensus among states on the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

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