The top 100 tax-paying companies in each of India's four major tax collection centres have paid 5-28 per cent lower advance tax in the third quarter because of the current economic slowdown, according to revenue department sources.
Companies are required to pay three-fourth of their annual tax liability in three instalments, by June 15, September 15 and December 15, depending on their annual profit projections.
Advance tax payout is seen as a leading indicator of the performance of the company as it is based on its estimate of profit for the full year.
Lower advance tax receipts will put pressure on government finances at a time when it is trying to increase spending to revive demand.
The advance tax paid by top 100 companies in the Mumbai region, the country's financial capital and a major contributor to the tax revenue, declined 20 per cent in the third quarter, sources said.
Similarly, the advance tax paid by top 100 companies in Delhi came down by 6 per cent, in Chennai by 5 per cent and in Hyderabad by 28 per cent, they added.
"Except Indian banks, comapanies in all other sectors have paid less in the third quarter," said a source.
Overall growth in advance tax collections declined to 13 per cent in the first seven months of this fiscal compared with around 30 per cent in the same period last year.
During the April-September 2008 period, the advance tax paid by companies grew 20 per cent, compared with the 29.5 per cent growth in the same period last year, indicating lower profit expectations.
On the other hand, the first instalment of advance tax paid by individuals came down by 26 per cent during the period, compared with the 25 per cent growth last year.
The advance tax paid by individuals may have come under further stress in the third quarter due to the economic downturn.
Direct tax collections need to grow at an annual rate of 16 per cent to achieve the Budget target of Rs 3,65,000 crore (Rs 3,650 billion) for 2008-09.
However, collections need to grow by 26 per cent for the government to achieve its internal target of Rs 3,95,000 crore (Rs 3,950 billion) for this fiscal.
Achieving the latter is unlikely, say officials. Direct tax collections dipped 36 per cent in November this year over the same month last year.