As SEBI reforms startup listing, SMEs must ensure funds are not misused

SME ExchangeAmid SEBI banning as many as 239 entities for alleged money laundering, taxation consultancy PwC has called for a three-year locking-in for the entire pre-listing capital held by promoters to curb tax evasion and other illegal activities through market platforms.

The agency has called for imposing a similar lock-in even for preferential allotments, as prescribed under the capital and disclosure requirement (ICDR) norms so that only serious investors access the market. The PwC report is part of a BSE-mandated review of SME listing process.

The premier bourse last week said that 100 entities were trading on its SME platform. The regulator Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI) on June 29 banned four publicly traded SMEs and 235 other related entities for alledgely misusing the exchange’s platform for money laundering and tax evasion.

The SEBI, in an interim order alleged that these entities made Rs 614 crore in illegal gains through suspected money laundering and tax evasion activities. The four companies banned are EcoFriendly Food Processing Park, Esteem Bio Organic Food Processing, Channel Nine Entertainment and HPC Biosciences. These are traded on the BSE SME Platform.

“The institutional trading platform (ITP) could be utilised as a tool for tax planning by staying invested in an SME for a period more than 12 months and exiting at a very high stock price thereby making huge gains with no tax liability,” PwC said in the report.

Accordingly, the report has suggested that the entire pre-listing capital held by promoters should be locked in for three years as “such restrictive conditions would discourage people from accessing the platform only for tax planning”. The BSE had launched ITP for its SME platform to facilitate start-ups and other SMEs to list without the mandatory IPO process which is time-consuming and capital intensive that small companies can hardly afford.

According to PTI, in addition to allowing SMEs and start-up companies to raise capital, the BSE SME platrfom also provides easier entry and exit options for informed investors like angel investors, venture capitalists and private equity players, apart from offering better visibility and wider investor base and tax benefits to long-term investors.

Meanwhile, the report also called for a reduction in trading lot size and shorter interval for review of lot size after many SMEs, merchant bankers and market-makers cited this as a disincentive for entering the market. The report said market participants want the timeframe to review the lot size to be reduced from the current six months and lower the trading lot requirement of Rs 1 lakh to attract retail investors to the segment.

As SEBI continues to make business easier, it is important SMEs do not eye illegal gains through suspected money laundering and tax evasion activities.


SEBI calls for stringent laws against erring auditors, valuers

SEBI has proposed giving the board of directors of the company the authority to take appropriate action after conducting an investigation against the individual or firm that violates any regulations or submits a false certificate or report.

India’s capital market regulator has proposed amendments to tighten laws governing auditors and other third-party individuals hired by listed companies for auditing financial results, among other things.

The Kotak Committee, formed to come up with proposals for improving corporate governance, last year recommended that the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) should have clear powers to act against auditors and other third-party individuals or firms with statutory duties under the securities law.

Auditing lapses have caused several frauds to go unnoticed for years and the capital market regulator has had no direct control on the auditing firms.

SEBI has proposed giving the board of directors of the company the authority to take appropriate action after conducting an investigation against the individual or firm that violates any regulations or submits a false certificate or report.

The proposed changes come months after Punjab National Bank, India’s second largest state-run lender, stunned markets after uncovering a $2 billion loan fraud that had gone undetected for years.

Merchant bankers, credit rating agencies, custodians, among others, are registered and regulated by SEBI but chartered accountants, company secretaries, valuers and monitoring agencies do not come under any direct regulators.

The amendments would mean auditors must ensure certificates or reports issued by them are true in all material respects and they must exercise all due care, skill and diligence with respect to all processes involved in issuance of the report or certificate.

The auditors would be responsible to report in writing to the audit committee of the listed company or the compliance officer on any violation of the securities law they noticed.

In January, SEBI barred Price Waterhouse from auditing listed companies in India for two years after an investigation into a nearly decade-old accounting fraud case in a software services company that became India’s biggest corporate scandal.

SEBI has sought feedback and comments on the draft regulations over the next 30 days.


Link: Business Today

I-T department bars CAs from valuing shares of closely held firms

The income tax (I-T) has barred all Chartered Accountants (CAs) from valuing shares of closely-held companies.

Earlier, the fair market value of unlisted equity shares was calculated at the option of the company on either the book value on the valuation date or by the discounted cash flow method. Calculated by a merchant banker or a CA.

However, the Central Board of Direct Taxes has removed the CAs from the list of authorised professionals in this regard. From Thursday, only a merchant banker may do this. This change brings this provision at par with Rule 3 of the I-T Act, which says only a merchant banker may calculate the value of unlisted shares issued under Employee Stock Ownership schemes.

Interestingly valuation of shares may still be done by CAs under the Companies Act.

So, unlisted shares or unlisted companies may be sold or valued by a CA’s valuation but, for I-T purposes, it will require a merchant banker’s valuation report.

It is expected that the government is considering a qualifying course for valuation; only those who clear it may do valuation.

Source: Business Standard

CAs, Merchant Bankers face fine if assessees file wrong tax information

CBDT chairman Sushil Chandra addressing a CII interactive session on Union Budget 2017-18 in New Delhi on Monday.

From April 1, chartered accountants (CAs), merchant bankers and valuers can’t escape responsibility for filing of incorrect information in certificates or reports attached with income tax returns of assessees.


They will be fined Rs 10,000 for each such certificates or reports, according to a provision in the Budget for 2017-18.


For this purpose, the Budget has proposed to insert a new section, 271J, in the Income Tax Act.


“Under Section 271J… we have entrusted responsibility with chartered accountants, valuers and merchant bankers who files audit, valuation reports and other things…,” CBDT Chairman Sushil Chandra said at a post-Budget interaction with PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry here. “So, if they file any incorrect information in the returns, they are also liable for a token penalty of Rs 10,000.”


The whole system is based on “a lot of faith on CAs and assessees and they have to be more responsible”, he said.


While there are many provisions to penalise the defaulting assessees, there was none to penalise CAs, merchant bankers and valuers.


A memorandum to the Finance Bill said: “In order to ensure that the person furnishing reports or certificates undertakes due diligence before making such certification, it is proposed to insert a new section (271J in the Act) so as to provide that if an accountant or a merchant banker or a registered valuer furnishes incorrect information in a report or certificate, the assessing officer or the commissioner (appeals) may direct him to pay a sum of Rs 10,000 for each such report or certificate by way of penalty.”


Chandra said the objective of the Budget was to improve tax compliance along with increasing tax base and improving ease of doing business.


Non-compliance level was high despite low tax, he said, adding that Indians named in various black money reports, including Panama Papers, were among the highest.


He pointed to high level of evasion of tax and tendency to export black money to foreign shores in spite of having global practices and standards, emphasising that this has to come down. “The department has done its bit, now it’s time for the taxpayers to show their respect to the law of land,” he said.


On long-term capital gains tax, he said the Budget has tried to plug gaps.


In the past few years, the tax department has detected Rs 80,000-crore sale consideration through the penny stock mechanism, the CBDT chief said, adding that this was used for conversion of black money into white.


However, “neither have we changed capital tax regime nor have we changed any law. So, whosoever was getting the benefit of long-term capital gains through ESOP, IPO and FPO is not going to change”.


Nothing is going to change except misuse, he clarified.

Listed company’s documentation may get simpler

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is learnt to be finalising a new mechanism to simplify the documentation process for listed companies wishing to issue new securities. Sources told FE that the concept of an ‘annual information memorandum’ will be introduced by the regulator, replacing the traditional offer document, if a company plans subsequent public issues via an offer for sale (OFS) or a follow-on public offering (FPO).

This memorandum is expected to provide exhaustive information about a company including financials, pending litigations and risk factors. Companies will have to file the document once a year. To incorporate the new mechanism, Sebi will amend Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirement (LODR) regulations.

As per the current LODR regulations, a company needs to file an offer document whenever it comes up with a public offering. However, offer documents are not mandatory in the cases of private placement like preferential issue, qualified institutional placements (QIPs), etc. The documentation is also not mandatory in case of rights issue where the company plans to tap existing shareholders.

Offer documents are usually drafted by merchant bankers in coordination with legal advisers. Post introduction of annual information memorandum, a company will be able to cut on the fees paid to merchant bankers and lawyers for the issue.

“Currently, we have the concept of annual reports. The new mechanism is a step forward. Annual information memorandums would provide additional details like pending litigations, etc. The regulator would come up with a format for the memorandum soon. This will also help investors get all the information about a company at a single place,” said an investment banker who is part of the primary markets advisory committee (PMAC) of Sebi.

As per the current LODR regulations, a company needs to upload an annual report which should contain audited financial statements, cash flow statements,directors report and management discussion and analysis report. The top 500 listed entities in terms of market capitalisation should also disclose business responsibility report describing initiatives taken by them from an environmental, social and governance perspectives.

In October 2015, Sebi had introduced the concept of abridged prospectus that companies need to file for public offers. Under this mechanism, any company going for an IPO needs to file an abridged prospectus along with the regular draft red herring prospectus (DRHP). The abridged prospects would be a 10-page document which would provide all the key information to the investor about the company. The decision was taken in the interest of investors as the full DRHP of a company runs into 400-500 pages.