Presenting the Union Budget 2022-23, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the introduction of digital rupee by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in the upcoming fiscal.

“It is proposed to introduce Digital Rupee, using blockchain and other technologies, to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India starting 2022-23," says the finance minister said in her Budget speech.

Sitharaman further proposed to tax the gains made on virtual digital assets at 30% and 1% TDS on transfer of virtual digital assets. “I propose to provide that any income from transfer of any virtual digital asset shall be taxed at the rate of 30%. No deduction in respect of any expenditure or allowance shall be allowed while computing such income, except cost of acquisition,” Sitharaman said.

A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), as defined by the RBI is the legal tender issued by a central bank in a digital form. It is the same as a fiat currency and is exchangeable one-to-one with the fiat currency. Only its form is different.

Industry applauds the announcement of the launch of Digital Rupee. The Budget announcement for the launch of a rupee-backed digital currency is likely to play a catalyst in creating a future of value transfer platform, says Monish Shah, partner at Deloitte India. It will contribute to a more resilient, innovative, and competitive payment system for households, businesses and the economy at large, he further opines.

"The launch of the Digital Rupee will usher in innovation around securities settlement for capital markets, atomic transactions, programmable payments around DBT and eventual cross border payments as well,” he adds.

Introduction of CBDC will give a big boost to the digital economy. Digital currency will also lead to a more efficient and cheaper currency management system, Sitharaman added in her speech.

As per Pranay Bhatia, partner and leader - tax and regulatory services, BDO India, announcement of the Digital Rupee is one of the most awaited announcements. However, he believes it will be interesting to understand whether there will be any specific benefit given to the Digital Rupee in terms of taxation.

The taxation of virtual assets is now clearly defined as well. While the experts welcome some clarity, they believe the high income tax rate is a harsh step taken by the government to discourage transactions in cryptos.

“Including a specific tax regime for virtual digital assets (such as cryptocurrencies) while providing clarity, is not in lines with what the industry was expecting. The 30% rate of tax and restriction to set-off losses is a very bold move in discouraging transactions in crypto,” says Ritesh Kumar, partner, IndusLaw.

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