NEW DELHI / The Hindustan Times / North India / March 1, 2011
A day after the federal budget, senior citizens practising laughter therapy at the Nehru Park in the capital's diplomatic enclave had real reasons to laugh at the welcome income tax sops given them.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in his budget speech on Monday proposed a special category of very senior citizens of those above 80 and giving them an exemption limit of Rs 500,000 (5 lakh) per annum.
The threshold age for senior citizens, who enjoy a tax-exemption limit of Rs 240,000, was lowered from 65 to 60 years.
"I am very happy with the proposal. At this stage of my life, when I have to pay for my medical expenses which is more than my total expense every month, this measure comes as a boon to me," 82-year-old Alok Kumar Srivastava told IANS.
Srivastava added that "he could think of saving some money in the future".
T V Venkitachalam, 82, former editor of the National Herald, said: "This is a very good move, a major relief for senior citizens like me."
A relieved Sophie Verghese, 81, a former nurse at a government hospital in Kerala who is in the capital to visit her grand-nephew, told IANS: "Unlike those in their prime of life, our incomes are static. A higher exemption entails greater breathing space and a few more comforts. I won't have to pinch pennies to support myself."
For most octogenarian citizens, "it was the best gesture that the government could have shown to a segment that was often neglected and shrugged off as societal burden".
The normal age of retirement is 60 years. However, people continue to pay the same amount of tax even after retirement till the age of 65.
"This move by the finance minister is a welcome step," Ashok Kumar, a 72-year-old retired IAS officer, told IANS.
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