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Union Budget 2024-25: Anticipated measures for middle-class and low-income relief amid economic challenges


The Union Budget for 2024-25 is expected to introduce measures aimed at supporting the middle class and low-income populations affected by persistent food inflation and stagnant incomes. Policymakers are reportedly considering various incentives, including personal income tax reliefs, higher retention levels of Agniveers in the regular defense services, and increased government support for urban housing to stimulate the labor-intensive construction sector.

Additionally, the government is likely to announce an assured pension option under the National Pension System (NPS) as part of efforts to enhance pensionary benefits for government employees.

“Besides the poor, the budget will likely announce measures to soothe the middle class who are probably miffed,” an official stated, requesting anonymity.

The recent general elections placed the Narendra Modi government in a challenging position, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fell short of an outright majority and now relies on coalition partners. With crucial state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana approaching in October, the budget is seen as a strategic tool to garner voter support.

“Discussions are ongoing to make the new personal income tax regime more attractive, leaving more money in the hands of people,” another official noted. One proposal includes raising the standard deduction by ₹25,000-₹50,000 under the new tax regime.

Under the current new income tax regime, a rebate is available for income up to ₹7 lakh, with a standard deduction of ₹50,000. Raising the standard deduction by ₹25,000-₹50,000 could exempt income up to ₹8 lakh from income tax. The new regime, introduced in 2019-20, has seen around 60% adoption but still has room for growth.

The government is considering expanding the number of “metropolitan cities” for higher House Rent Allowance (HRA) claims, potentially including Bangalore and Hyderabad.

HRA is a salary component paid by employers towards rent payment by employees. The least of the following is exempted from salary under Section 10(13A) of the Income Tax Act:

  • Actual HRA received from the employer
  • 50% of salary if the rented property is in metro cities (Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai)
  • 40% of salary for non-metro cities
  • Actual rent paid minus 10% of salary

For Centre’s staff under NPS, the government may offer a guaranteed pension option, potentially providing 40% or more of the last basic pay as pension. This move follows a panel recommendation to enhance pension benefits without reverting to the non-contributory old pension system (OPS).

To address dissatisfaction among youth aspiring for armed forces careers, the government may adjust the Agnipath scheme. Plans include more than doubling the absorption of Agniveers into regular services with full pay and pension after the four-year contractual period.

The Agnipath Scheme, launched on June 15, 2022, recruits servicemen on a four-year contractual basis to manage salary and pension costs. The defense budget for FY25 is set at ₹1.41 trillion, a 22% increase from ₹1.16 trillion in FY22. Increased retentions may focus on technical and specialist forces, aligning with future defense readiness needs.

The Union Budget 2024-25 aims to address economic challenges, support middle and low-income populations, and bolster defense and pension systems, reflecting the government’s broader socio-economic goals.

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