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Taxation of Trading in Future & Options

Everything an Future & Options trader should know about return filing

This article is about how trading in derivatives is to be treated under the Income tax. Derivative trading (trading in future and options or F&O on stocks, currencies, and commodities) has become a hot topic amongst investors. Unfortunately, though, most people ignore reporting of transactions of F&O in there Income Tax return. Here we have tried to explain the same in very simple terms. If you are an F&O trader and struggling to understand how to tackle your taxes, read on below:

  1. Your gains or losses from F&O trades must be reported
  2. Usually F&O trading is reported as a business
  3. Expenses that can be claimed by you
  4. Mixed bag of stock trading/investment
  5. Keeping accounting records
  6. Audit and Return filing
  7. Tax benefits on losses – Provisions relating to set off and carry forward
  8. Determining turnover for applicability of tax audit for F & O Trading.

      1.Your gains (losses) from F&O trades must be reported:

Taxpayers especially those who are salaried but trade in F&O, generally do not report these in their tax return. While this may happen due to sheer ignorance; reporting all your sources of income is mandatory. Taxpayers may receive a notice from the tax department for non-compliance and as we will see below, reporting losses comes with tax benefits!

  1. Usually F&O trading is reported as a business income /loss not NOT CAPITAL GAIN:

Trading in futures & options must be reported as a business which also applies to individuals. You don’t have to be formally incorporated as a company or some legal entity to earn business income still you can have business income too. ITR Form-3 is applicable in case if you have F&O transactions during the year along with other income. Reporting an activity as a business means you can claim expenses from earnings of your business.

  1. Expenses that can be claimed

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, salary, etc., all of these expenses can be claimed. Need 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 is not allowed to be claimed.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.  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.

  1. 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. 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 Chartered Accountant 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.

  1. 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.

2 thoughts on “Taxation of Trading in Future & Options”

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