Being 2018-19, a pre-election year as the Lok Sabha Elections are around the corner in the year 2019, Government is most likely going to come out with a populist budget in February 2018. Popular belief is that, budget is going to provide relief to the common man as well as business class post the two major changes that our economy has witnessed in a short span of time i.e. Demonetization in 2016 and implementation of Goods and Services Tax in the year 2017. Significant liquidity issues were caused in the economy with the announcement of demonetization but it was a commendable decision for combating the black money. GST being highlighted as a game changer has already gone past the initial teething issues.India has jumped 30 places and 53 places in Ease of Doing Business rankings and Ease of Paying Taxes category respectively as per the rankings released by World Bank. Government would further like to improve these rankings in the years to come and policies and measures shall be formulated in this direction.Considering the Lok Sabha Elections in the year 2019, the expectations of “feel-good” factors in the budget are pretty high. This budget might have a series of populist policies. The following are some of the key expectations from Budget 2018-19: Direct Tax StructureChanges are bound to occur in the current income tax slabs but common man should not expect any miracles. Budget is likely to increase the exemption limits for salaried employees and senior citizens. Limit for deduction under Section 80C and Section 80D might also be increased to please the masses. Some media channels have already reported that the Government is planning to revise the current slab of Rs. 2.5 lakh to Rs. 3 lakh per annum as the minimum taxable income. Underline fact is that any upward revision of the minimum taxable income slab will be equally welcomed both by the salaried and self employed class.Standard deduction for salaried employees might be reinstated to ease the tax burden of the employees. This shall help in reducing the disparity as business class is eligible for deduction of expenses incurred by them for earning their business income while salaried class is not getting any such deduction.Exemption limit of Transportation allowance under Section 10 is likely to increase to Rs. 2500 per month considering the rising fuel costs and to offset the resultant increase in the conveyance costs. Finance Minister is likely to make some announcement regarding the upward revision of exemption limit of Education Allowance and Hostel Allowance considering the rising inflation and cost of education. Expectations are also high to hear the announcement regarding the increase in the exemption limit in respect of the sum paid by the employer to employee on the medical treatment i.e. reimbursement of medical expenditure.Limit of deduction under Section 80TTA in respect of Interest on Deposits in Savings Account might also be increased from existing Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000.The Finance Minister while presenting Budget 2015-16 promised that the rate of Corporate Tax shall be reduced from 30 per cent to 25 per cent over the next four years with corresponding phasing out of exemptions and deductions. Different industry bodies during the pre-budget meet has already urged to the Finance Ministry to lower the Corporate Tax rates. To encourage the investments from the International and Domestic Investors, an announcement to reduce the Corporate Tax rate to 27% is most likely expected though rate of surcharge on tax is going to remain the same. Business ecosystem will become more attractive with the lowering to Corporate Tax rates. Changes are also likely to be brought in the rates of Dividend Distribution Tax.Reduction in tax rates is also likely to be announced for firms/Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs). Reduction in tax rates for these entities would facilitate ease of doing business in any form and shall not particularly restrict the benefit to Corporates. Indirect Tax StructureExpectations are very high as this will be the First Budget after the implementation of Goods and Services Tax popularly known to GST across the country. Central Government focus and interest and their reliance on the Indirect Tax policy of the country are likely to be demonstrated.With the implementation of GST and overcoming the initial teething issues, there are several other critical issues which require resolution. Clarification is required on issues like Anti-Profiteering Compliance Mechanism, Apportionment of Credit and Blocked Credits, procedural compliances, proper refund mechanism especially for exporters along with the time frame within which the refund will be credited etc. GST Registration requirement for Non-resident for entering into specified transactions with registered persons might be done away with as it is acting as a big deterrent for foreign individuals coming to India and providing the technological support to Indian businesses.Amendment is also likely to be expected in the definition of place of supply of accommodation service. This will help in extending the seamless flow of credit and avoid any harm to the tourism industry.Amendment is also expected in the GST laws to allow input tax credit to the customer provided he has made the payment of invoice along with tax to the supplier. At present, input tax credit was available only if the tax charged in respect of the supply has been actually paid to the Government by the supplier of goods and services.Expectations are also high from the Finance Minister to change the periodicity of filling of GST returns from monthly to quarterly for all the taxpayers though the payment of tax can be made monthly for taxpayers having a specified aggregate annual turnover. This will lead to simplified compliance mechanism and will boost the confidence of tax payers by reducing the much added compliance burden on the taxpayers. Digital India and Make in IndiaFurther policies and reforms are expected towards the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ initiatives considering the focus that Central Government has given to these initiatives over the past few years. Some tax breaks might be offered to boost these initiatives. Measures to Promote Cashless TransactionsTaking into account the government’s measures to promote the Cashless Transactions, the next budget is also expected to announce additional benefits to those opting for cash less transactions through debit cards, mobile wallets and credit cards. Investment in RailwaysModernization of Indian Railways is the need of the hour and therefore, the Finance Minister is expected to give further momentum to government spending on railways modernization. This budget might introduce measures that focus on development of railway infrastructure. Like every year, we can expect the launch of a few new trains. Reduction in passenger fares for non-A/C classes is also expected to boost positive sentiment among voters especially in the lower economic strata but don’t expect premium class fares to get reduced in this budget. Affordable HousingGovernment is likely to continue with the benefits of offering cheaper home loans to individuals and promoting the low cost housing as announced in the last year’s budget. These benefits might be extended for the 2018-19 period. Taxes on Tobacco, Alcohol, Luxury GoodsAlcohol and Tobacco products have been the perennial source of revenues for the Indian Government over the years. Historically, almost in every budget, the prices of the tobacco products and alcohol have been increased. Expect that this budget will be no different. To increase the indirect tax revenues, the price of imported goods such as high-end electronics, imported luxury cars etc. are also likely to increase. This will have a positive impact on the budget deficit and will also promote the Make in India initiative. This article is all about the expectations from the Union Budget 2018-19 as this budget is expected to be different from many of the previous ones. The top agenda of the government would be to create a positive feeling for the future among the masses considering the Lok Sabha elections are around the corner in the year 2019 as well as to boost the investor confidence.