Derivative/ F&O Trader and Taxation

Sanjay/ September 6, 2020/ Income Tax


F&O trading is reported as a business

Trading in futures & options must be reported as a business unless you have only a few trades (say if only 2-3 trades) in the financial year. Remember this also applies to individuals. You may have filed ITR-1 or ITR-2 before but you must check ITR form applicability every year based on each income earned in that year. Reporting an activity as a business means you can claim expenses from earnings of your business

Claim Expenses

The bright spot in filing your return as a business is being able to claim what you’ve spent on it. Sometimes claiming expenses can lead to a business loss and that is ok too. Claim expenses which have been directly and exclusively spent on the business. Brokerage, broker’s commission, subscriptions to journals related to trading, telephone bills, internet costs, consultant charges if you engaged a person or took advice from a professional who charged you. Or salary of a person you hired to help with your business. All of these can be claimed. Remember to maintain proper record of receipts/bills and make sure you are spending via cheques or bank transfers and not in cash. Expenses over Rs 10,000 in cash, may not be allowed to be claimed. If an expense is both personal and business, claim a reasonable portion towards business.

Mixed bag of stock trading/investment

As a stock market expert, you may put your hands in many buckets. Intra-day stock trading or buying shares for short term or longer term. For tax purposes, you must separate out these activities. If you do intra-day trading that must be treated as a separate business from F&O and its income (loss) should be computed separately. If you have a large volume and high frequency of short term trading in equity shares that may be treated as a business too. Choose a basis wisely and implement it consistently across financial years. If you are a long term equity investor or have fewer short-term equity share sales, gains from these may be treated as capital gains. So, in a financial year, you may have several types of business income or may have capital gains income as well.

Keeping accounting records

Once your activity is treated as a business, there are some other tax rules that may apply. In case you are running a business in the capacity of an individual or a HUF, the requirement to maintain accounting records would arise if your income exceeds Rs 2.5 lakhs or gross receipts exceeds Rs 25 lakhs in any of the 3 preceding years or in the first year in case of a new business.These limits are the enhanced limits w.e.f 1 April 2017. Earlier, the limit was Rs 1.2 lakhs for income and Rs. 10 Lakhs for gross receipts. However, these limits of Rs 1.2 lakhs and Rs 10 lakhs still hold good for taxpayers carrying on business other than individuals or HUF. If you are an individual who’s doing a business, such as F&O trading, these apply to you as well. Your book keeping will be simpler though. Keeping your trading statements, expense receipts and bank account statements shall mostly suffice. From these your profit and loss account and balance is prepared.

Audit and Return filing

 We know that most taxpayers have to file return by 31st July, but those to whom audit applies, have a return filing due date of 30th September. (for current year it is 30th Nov 2020) Audit applies to a business if its turnover exceeds Rs 1 crore. If this is true for you, you’ll have to get your accounts audited via a CA and submit the audit report along with your tax return. If you fail to maintain books of accounts, or do not get an audit done, penalties shall be applicable as per the income tax act. The penalty leviable for non-maintenance of accounting records could go upto Rs 25,000 under Section 271A. Further a penalty equal to lower of Rs 1.5 lakhs or 0.5% of gross receipts or turnover can be levied under Section 271B for not getting books audited under Section 44AB. Tax audit under Section 44AB also becomes mandatory for taxpayers who opt for presumptive scheme of taxation, yet declare an income lower than the presumptive income and such income (after setting off F & O losses or other business losses if any) exceeds the maximum amount not chargeable to tax i.e. Rs 2.5 lakhs. NOTE: The threshold limit of Rs 1 crore for a tax audit is proposed to be increased to Rs 5 crore with effect from AY 2021-22 (FY 2020-21) if the taxpayer’s cash receipts are limited to 5% of the gross receipts or turnover, and if the taxpayer’s cash payments are limited to 5% of the aggregate payments.

Tax benefits on losses – Provisions relating to set off and carry forward

 The single most important reason to file with F&O trading is to be able to benefit from losses you have incurred. If your business resulted in a loss, don’t worry, report it in your tax return. It can be adjusted from income from remaining heads such as rental income or interest income (cannot be adjusted from salary income). Any unadjusted loss can be carried forward for eight years. However, in the future, they can only be adjusted from non-speculative income. F&O trading loss is considered a non-speculative loss. Intra-day stock trading is considered as a speculative loss. And it can only be adjusted against speculative income. Unadjusted speculative losses can be carried forward to four years.

In case of Profit from transactions of F&O Trading:

  1. In the case of profit from derivative transactions, tax audit will be applicable if the turnover from such trading exceeds Rs. 1 crore.
  2. Tax audit u/s 44AB row’s. 44AD will also be applicable, if the net profit from such transactions is less than 8% (6%, if all trades are digital) of the turnover from such transactions.

In case of Loss from F&O Trading:

  1. In case of Loss from derivative trading, since profit (Loss in this case) is less than 8% (6%, if all trades are digital) of the turnover, therefore Tax Audit will be applicable u/s 44AB r.w.s. 44AD.
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