US Tax Identity Number reporting rules relaxed for Indian institutions

Jan 15, 2018 0

New Delhi–The government on Monday said a rule regarding the reporting of US TIN (Tax Identity Number) by Indian Reporting Financial Institutions (RFIs) has been relaxed in the India-US Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) under FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act).

“… In case the US TIN is not available, to avoid determination by the USA Competent Authority of significant non-compliance to the obligations of the IGA,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry listed three conditions for Indian RFIs to take advantage of the relaxation — obtain and report the date of birth of each account holder and controlling person whose US TIN is not reported; request annually from each account holder any missing required US TIN; and before reporting information that relates to calendar year 2017 to the partner jurisdiction, search electronically searchable data maintained by the reporting FFI for any missing required US TINs.

“… The RFIs are advised to insert nine capital letters e.g. (i.e. AAAAAAAAA) in the TIN field (for the Account Holder or Controlling Person, as the case may be), for such accounts in their reports in Form 61B, provided that all the three conditions listed above are met,” the ministry said.

The two countries signed the IGA under FATCA in 2015 and to enhance the effectiveness of information exchange, both sides committed to establish rules requiring their RFIs to obtain the TIN of each “reportable person having a reportable account as of June 30, 2014 (pre-existing account)”.

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Tech Mahindra Partners With Online Learning Platform edX

Jan 13, 2018 0

NOIDA, India–Tech Mahindra announced their partnership with edX.org, the leading global non-profit, open-source learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT.

This is edX’s first ever collaboration of this kind with a global technology brand headquartered in India, and comes on the heels of recent partnership with GE, wherein the company has also guaranteed interviews to learners who complete specific MicroMasters programs.

Since first announced in September 2016, edX and 25 international partners have launched 46 MicroMasters programs. Since edX began in 2012, India has consistently remained the platform’s second largest learner base, underscoring the strong need for high-quality education in India and the enthusiasm of Indian learners. Over the last couple of years, edX has witnessed great momentum with 96% growth in its Indian learner base. With more than 1,500,000 Indian learners, India makes up 11% of the edX learner base overall.

Anant Agarwal (left) and CP Gurnani

The Tech Mahindra initiative is aimed at reskilling company’s existing 117,000+ employees in India and across the globe, enabling their development and growth through world class programs offered by leading Universities in areas like IoT, Cyber security, VR, Machine Learning, Big data, Analytics etc.

As part of the partnership Tech Mahindra will also offer opportunities for pre-identified learners enrolled in an edX MicroMasters program. Anyone who completes these programs and meets the minimum criteria of education and work experience, Tech Mahindra will assure a job interview with the company.

The MicroMasters programs are an in-depth and rigorous series of courses, with a path to credit from prestigious universities. To learn more about MicroMasters programs on edX, visit www.edx.org/micromasters.

This engagement empowers Tech Mahindra associates with much needed learning opportunities to enhance their careers and stay relevant in the Digital Age. Tech Mahindra has worked out special schemes for its employees where they can self- fund the certifications at discounted rates to be reimbursed on successful completion of the course. edX platform leverages the years of classroom learning experience of best universities in the world with neuroscience to deliver an active learning experience and holds the learner’s interest while learning online.

“Training and Reskilling are more imperative and relevant to reinvent and tap into new market opportunities arising out of technological change and new customer requirements,” said CP Gurnani, CEO and MD at Tech Mahindra. “Today’s disruptive business landscape demands for our talents to be future ready and it is our prime responsibility that the right tools and innovative pathways are facilitated for them. However, in the new world the employee has to bear the onus as learning accountability is now increasingly shifting to the employee.”

Mr. Gurnani said his firm is excited to work together with edX because careers will be facilitated with a blended learning environment as well as this gives the firm the opportunity to bring in new ideas to the table and enhance the customers’ experiences.

“EdX is driven by the mission to provide access to high-quality education that transforms lives and advances careers to all learners, everywhere. This groundbreaking partnership with Tech Mahindra furthers our mission and underscores our commitment to edX learners in India and around the globe,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT Professor. “Through this innovative work with Tech Mahindra, we are working together to offer learners the tools they need to gain knowledge in the most cutting edge fields, including Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Business Analytics amongst others, in order to fast-track their careers and secure in-demand jobs.”

This is edX’s first ever collaboration of this kind with a global technology brand headquartered in India, and comes on the heels of recent partnership with GE, wherein the company has also guaranteed interviews to learners who complete specific MicroMasters programs.

Since first announced in September 2016, edX and 25 international partners have launched 46 MicroMasters programs. Since edX began in 2012, India has consistently remained the platform’s second largest learner base, underscoring the strong need for high-quality education in India and the enthusiasm of Indian learners. Over the last couple of years, edX has witnessed great momentum with 96% growth in its Indian learner base. With more than 1,500,000 Indian learners, India makes up 11% of the edX learner base overall.

EdX.org is the leading online learning platform founded by MIT and Harvard. It is the premier open source, non-profit learning destination and massive open online course (MOOC) provider, offering high-quality courses and programs from the world’s best universities and institutions.

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Americans told be cautious while travelling to India

Jan 11, 2018 0

Washington– The US State Department has warned Americans to exercise increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism and to avoid going to Jammu and Kashmir except the Buddhist-dominated region of Ladakh.

The State Department on Wednesday launched improvements on sharing information with US travellers to provide clear, timely and reliable safety and security information.

“Exercise increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism. Some areas have increased risk,” the advisory said.

It asked Americans not to travel to Jammu and Kashmir (except Ladakh region and its capital Leh) due to terrorism and civil unrest.

It also warned of potential for armed conflict within 10 km of the India-Pakistan border in the state.

“Indian authorities report rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations,” it said.

“Terrorist or armed groups are active in East Central India, primarily in rural areas,” the advisory said, referring to Maoists.

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets and shopping malls and local government facilities.

“The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in rural areas from eastern Maharashtra and northern Telangana through western West Bengal as US government employees must obtain special authorization to travel to these areas.”

The advisory said that Americans deciding to visit India must not travel alone, particularly if they were women.

“US citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations.

“Due to the fluid nature of the threat, all US government travellers to states with Naxalite activity must receive special authorization from the US consulate responsible for the area to be visited.

“US officials travelling only to the capital cities in these states do not need prior authorization,” it added. (IANS)

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Indian IT industry lauds no change in H-1B visa policy

Jan 9, 2018 0

Bengaluru– The Indian IT industry on Tuesday lauded the US administration for not considering any regulatory change in the H-1B visa extension policy.

“It’s a good decision. We are relieved that there won’t be any change in the H1-B visa extension policy. It is beneficial for us as well as our clients in the US,” a software export firm executive told IANS here.

The clarification by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Monday refuted a report by a US-based news agency that the US Department of Homeland Security was considering new regulations to prevent the extension of H1-B visas, availed mostly by the Indian IT firms.

“The USCIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the US by changing our interpretation of section 104(c) of AC-21, which provides for H-1B extensions beyond the 6-year limit,” said USCIS’ chief of media relations Jonathan Withington.

Indian IT industry’s apex body Nasscom President R. Chandrashekhar said the US news agency report was ill-founded, as it was trying to mislead by quoting “a government source” in support of its claim that Washington was mulling new rules to prevent H-1B visa extensions.

“We can’t be commenting on every news report, that too, on a non-event. We made it clear that any disruptive move on the visa policy will be detrimental to both a” India and the US. The clarification by the USCIS is self-explanatory,” Chandrashekhar told IANS from New Delhi.

Withington also said USCIS was never considering such a policy change and that “any suggestion that USCIS changed its position because of pressure is absolutely false”.

The H-1B programme offers temporary US visas that allow companies to hire highly skilled foreign professionals working in areas with shortages of qualified American workers.

Indians get most of the H1-B visas, although there are no national quotas for the facility nor is it specifically designed for Indians.

“Raising the visa issue has been a regular feature in the US media and rhetorical among the lobbies despite the fact that there is an acute shortage of skilled professionals in North America and enterprises there need those who have them (skills),” said another IT firm executive on the condition of anonymity.

With internet and communication technologies bridging the space and distance, the need for deploying more techies on onsite has reduced drastically over the years.

“We do more projects from offshore (India) and provide a range of software services remotely through seamless networks. The need for deploying more of our employees is not so much as it was in the past,” added the executive.

According to Nasscom estimates, the use of visas by Indian IT firms has declined 50 per cent over the last two years. (IANS)

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Infosys signs agreement with US IRS for lower tax rate

Jan 9, 2018 0

Mumbai– Global software major Infosys on Tuesday said it has signed an agreement with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which will lead to an effective tax rate lower by about 100 basis points (bps) for future periods.

According to the Bengaluru-based firm, the advanced pricing agreement (APA) — the premilinary discussions on which were initiated with the IRS in 2015 — is expected to result in the reversal of tax provisions of around $225 million in the quarter ended December 31, 2017.

“As a result of the APA methodology, the company expects its overall effective tax rate to be lower by around 100 bps for future periods covered under the APA,” the company said in a regulatory filing to the BSE.

The BSE filing said this agreement covers financial years from 2011 to 2021.

“Further, in line with the APA, the company expects to payout approximately $233 million due to the difference between the taxes payable for prior periods as per the APA and the actual taxes paid for such periods. This amount is expected to be paid over the next few quartes,” the company added.

The company said the APA will enhance predictability of its tax obligations in respect of its US operations. (IANS)

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Disney acquiring Star India from Fox

Dec 14, 2017 0

New York– Media giant Disney is acquiring Star India from 21st Century Fox as part of a global $52.4 billion mega-deal announced Thursday.

Disney’s footprint will expand significantly in India – one of the fastest growing and largest media markets in the world – with Star TV which has 69 channels in eight languages and the streaming service, HotStar.

Disney, which runs a Disney channel and Hungama in India, already owns UTV.

Under the deal, Disney will acquire most of the Fox properties, especially in entertainment, while Fox will retain mostly news channels in the US.

The sale was part of a reordering of the assets of the Murdoch family with an aging 86-year-old patriarch, Rupert Murdoch.

The gigantic group, once known as News Corporation, underwent another wrenching change in 2012 when the TV and entertainment assets were split away from newspaper and non-TV news media, creating 21st Fox for the entertainment operations and NewsCorp for the news side.

The split came about as a result of an outcry over a phone-hacking scandal in Britain involving one of the Murdoch-owned tabloids.

Now the media conglomerate is downsizing and going back to its roots in the news business.

For now, Murdoch will continue to be a big presence in the US media world with Fox News and Fox TV stations around the country and NewsCorp, which owns The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones, which have operations around the world. (IANS)

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Sunjae Sharma to lead Hyatt’s India operations

Dec 14, 2017 0

Hyderabad– Hyatt Hotels on Thursday announced the appointment of Sunjae Sharma as Vice President of Operations for India.

A seasoned hospitality professional, Sharma will lead Hyatt’s India operations and will be responsible for executing the company’s operational and growth strategy in his new role.

Peter Fulton, Group President, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Southwest Asia for Hyatt, said that Sharma has been an integral part of Hyatt’s 34-year journey in India.

“We believe that with his operational skills and vision he is the ideal choice to lead Hyatt’s quest to be the most preferred hotel brand in India,” he said.

Prior to being appointed vice president of operations for India, Sharma was the Area Vice President for South & West India and General Manager of Grand Hyatt Mumbai, where he oversaw the strategic and financial performance of 16 hotels.

Hyatt Hotels Corporation, headquartered in Chicago, is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 13 premier brands. Its portfolio included 739 properties in 57 countries. (IANS)

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US golden visa scheme may be extended: Experts

Dec 5, 2017 0

By Aroonim Bhuyan

New Delhi– Though the three-month extension of the US’ EB5 visa scheme ends on December 8, experts are of the view that the scheme, popularly known as the “Golden Visa”, is likely to be extended.

“Although the discussions over revising the EB5 visa programme have been long due, investors continue to apply as EB5 Visa offers an attractive path to permanent residency in the United States,” Jeff DeCicco, CEO and Chief Compliance Officer of CanAm Investor Services, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

Stating that the current US administration is “very active” in reforming immigration laws, DeCicco said: “While it is highly unlikely the programme will be done away with, there is a high likelihood that the investment amount will be increased. In our opinion, the said increase will not be effective immediately. We feel Congress will give a 30 to 60 days’ notice prior to implementing the new laws.”

Introduced by the US Congress in 1990, the EB5 visa programme allows an individual to invest $500,000 in either of two Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) — a high unemployment area in a US metropolis or a rural area outside of a metro — or $1 million in a non-TEA area that can create 10 or more jobs and get US citizenship in a shorter time than H1-B visa holders.

With US President Donald Trump calling for stricter norms for issuance of H1-B visas, largely availed by Indian IT firms, the EB5 visa has been in demand for the shorter route to citizenship it offers.

A private member’s bill was also introduced earlier this year in the US Congress by Democrat Zoe Lofgren which seeks to increase the minimum salary of an H1-B visa holder to a whopping $130,000 from the current minimum of $60,000.

At the same time, the EB5 visa programme has also come under controversy with critics saying that it puts up US citizenship for sale. However, the US Congress in September this year extended the scheme by three months.

Stating that authorisation for the EB5 programme has been carried on a temporary basis on Congressional spending bills since September 2015, Rogelio Caceres of LCR Capital said that key figures in the US Senate, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, have been negotiating an EB5 reform bill “in good faith and have made considerable progress”.

“Based on discussions with our team in Washington, D.C., it is very possible that the principal negotiators will come to an agreement in principle in December, which, along with reforms, will likely provide the programme with a five-year reauthorisation,” Caceres said.

Asked what it would mean for Indian applicants in case the EB5 visa scheme gets extended, Mark Davies of Davis and Associates LLC said that Indian applicants needed to be very mindful of two issues looming over the EB5 scheme: A likely price increase and retrogression.

“While most commentators believe the December 8 is a ‘red herring’, combined with these two issues make it highly desirable for Indian investors to make their EB5 move quickly,” Davies said.

Asked about the demographic profile of Indians applying for the EB5 visa, he mentioned students studying in the US, workers on H1B visas already in the US, business owners looking to expand into the US and families looking to relocate to the US.

According to DeCicco, the Trump administration has brought all visas under hard scrutiny.

“They have implemented tougher regulations on immigration and have increased the screening process of applicants under each category,” he said.

“In these times, we feel it is especially important for EB5 investors to work with experienced immigration attorneys and companies that have a long track record of successful EB5 ventures.”

However, Caceres is of the view that the Trump administration supports the EB5 programme as it creates tens of thousands of new American jobs each year, all at no cost to the taxpayer.

“They are keen to see much-needed investor protection reforms instituted to help weed out the bad actors in the programme,” he said.

As for the kind of investments made by Indians under the EB5 programme, Caceres said: “Seventy-four per cent of Indians select real estate projects, as do most other nationalities. Certain areas of the country are also very interested in restaurant franchises and hospitality industries.” (IANS)

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US companies commit continued investments in India

Dec 4, 2017 0

By Aroonim Bhuyan

New Delhi– Representatives of around 45 American companies met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad and expressed their commitment to continue investing in India, a top Indian American business leader has said.

Bombay Stock Exchange

These representatives were part of a delegation of the US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), a newly set-up non-profit organisation focused on deepening business relations between the US and India and enhancing the strategic relationship between the two countries.

“I can’t talk about the specifics (of the meeting with Modi) because it was off the record. But basically the companies did meet with the Prime Minister and they showed their commitment to continued investment into India,” USISPF President Mukesh Aghi told IANS in an interview.

The US looks at building its relationship with India on two broad principles. “One principle is that economic prosperity of India is good for America. And the second principle is a militarily strong India is good for regional stability,” Aghi said.

If India became economically more prosperous and there was more disposable income, people would tend to buy more US goods, or send more of their kids for education to the US, he said.

“If you look at this year, the enrollment of Indian students in the US went up by 12 per cent. So we have 186,000 Indian students in the US,” he stated.

“That’s one. Two, if you look at companies like Amazon, look at Uber, look at WhatsApp or Google, you know they have a tremendous market share in the Indian market. Their businesses grow because consumer spending is growing in India because of economic prosperity.”

On the defence side, Aghi said that if India became more prosperous, it would spend more money on defence.

“If you look at the last three years, the procurement with India has gone up to $15 billion,” he said.

“We are talking Make in India also from the manufacturing perspective of defence equipment. So, I think those principles are driving this relationship.”

On the current business environment in India, Aghi referred to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings which saw India jumping from the 130th rank to 100th.

“When this government came in 2014, India’s ranking was 142. And now it has come to 100. I think that is a positive sign and we will keep on urging the government to go to below 50. That should be the ambition,” he stated.

About the economic reforms being undertaken by the Indian government, he said these have been certified by credit rating agency Moody’s, which has upgraded India’s sovereign rating to Baa2 from its lowest investment grade of Baa after 14 long years.

“What the government is doing is the right stuff — which seems to send a strong message to investors also. Moody’s ranking is a positive sign, very positive,” he said.

On what were the key takeaways for USISPF from this year’s GES, which was held on the theme “Women First, Priority for All”, Aghi said: “I think the number one takeaway is that start-ups and entrepreneurship are important for job creation. That’s what India needs”.

He also stressed on the involvement and engagement of women entrepreneurs and women workers for the growth of GDP and economy.

“You know, a McKinsey report shows that by 2025, if you engage more women workers, it will have an impact of $12 trillion on the global economy,” the USISPF president said. (IANS)

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No change in H1B visa system: US

Dec 1, 2017 0

Kolkata– Amid the H1B visa row in India, the US government on Friday said there has been no change in law regarding the H1B regime and the system continued to be as before.

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for State for South Asia Thomas Vajda said no legislation has been passed so far on the particular category of visa.

“(There is) no change in the law today for H1B (visa) regime or system in the United States… President (Donald) Trump asked for review of the H1B system…but no steps have been taken. Many changes in law, so many cases, require changes of legislation. But so far no legislation has been passed on H1B. For the moment, the system remains as it has in the past,” Vajda told reporters after an interactive session with members of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Following Trump’s election as US president on a protectionist platform, the US has announced stricter norms for issuing the H1B and L1 visas.

India’s Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said in October that the issue of H1B and L1 visas, which have facilitated the entry of Indian IT professionals, has been raised strongly with Washington.

Responding to a query regarding reducing pet coke imports from the US, Vajda said the US sees energy as the most potential area for increasing economic activities.

“The US is committed to increase energy export and support for India’s economic development,” he said.

Vajda said both the governments of India and the US have been hopeful and supportive for completion of contract between the Westinghouse Electric Company and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India to build six nuclear reactors in India.

On the Rohingya refugee crisis, he said the US has been providing financial support for humanitarian purposes to the Bangladesh government through international organisations to help out over 600,000 Rohingyas who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since August.

“We also continue to urge the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to have conversations and discussions that will facilitate the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingyas to Myanmar,” he added. (IANS)

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