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India’s $6.4 Billion Tax on Foreign Investment

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Foreign institutional investors in India have been troubled by the demands from Indian tax officials to pay liabilities owed under the newly enforced minimum alternate tax (“M.A.T.”). India’s Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, announced that beginning April 1, portfolio investors residing in countries that have tax treaties with India are fully exempt from the tax and will not have to pay the accompanying 20% levy on past capital gains.

The M.A.T. is essentially a minimum corporate tax that creates an overall tax of 20% on capital gains. Previously, foreign investors paid 15% on short term listed equity gains, 5% on bond gains, and nothing on long term gains.

In 2014, India’s Finance Ministry began issuing notices to foreign companies for the payment of the M.A.T. on past capital gains amounting to $6.4 billion, collectively. The Finance Ministry has not enforced the M.A.T. on foreign institutional investors for over 20 years, according to the international fund organization, Investment Company Institute Global. Foreign institutional investors have been contending that the M.A.T. should only apply to Indian companies, not foreign entities.