Thursday, 30 March 2017

Suspect Thy Neighbour,LoveThy Taxman

(Article written exclusively for India Today - Click Here)

Yesterday was a historic day indeed. No, Salman Khan didn’t mow down extraterrestrials with his car to complete his bucket list. But rather the GST (Goods and service tax) bill was finally passed by the Indian parliament after a mere 16 years of debate. But don’t blame us we had more juicy topics to debate about during this period like people shouting anti-national slogans, then people not shouting our favourite national slogans etc. It’s been a fun ride in short.

So recently in my building society we had a session by the income tax department who were simply following the directives of Mr Modi asking the income tax department to have a friendly approach towards citizens.Presumably to change their response from “oh! Shit, It’s the tax guys. Darling is your diamond jewellery hidden under the commode or in our Labrador’s stomach?”  to “Oh wow it’s the friendly tax guys again. Darling, why don’t you make some hot pakodas while I squeeze out some fresh watermelon juice for them as they wipe away our net worth”. Sources tell me that a few rounds of bingo were played too with society members. Just that the proud winners walked away with complimentary tax raids by the officials.

Now the GST tax system once implemented is supposed to unify multiple taxes and make indirect taxes a lot more convenient. This is where the government has spoiled all the fun. Until now with a tricky tax structure in place at least there was some incentive to learn the tax system well and accordingly hunt for loopholes within it to make a quick buck.

So now you expect us to make an honest living while the government conveniently robs us from the adrenaline rush we used to get by breaking the system for our personal gains. This is simply unfair.
Analysts have predicted that once the GST is in place, many things will get cheaper which will boost consumption and consequently increase our GDP. So basically life will soon be an unending parade of joy and just when you reach your deathbed and are reminiscing about your fulfilling lifetime, retrospective tax will strangle the remaining life out of you.

I have been seeing multiple advertisements lately of the government’s income declaration scheme where once you declare your undisclosed income you are let go with a 45% tax penalty and no legal repercussions. I simply love PM Modi’s approach to this which is really how all negotiations end in India – “na teri,na meri.45% mein done karo”. He has hit the nail really. As Indians we love discounts whether it’s buying potatoes, negotiating with flight hijackers or declaring our undisclosed income.

Speaking of tax evasions many Indians were rather disappointed that their name wasn’t featured in the Panama Papers leak. After stashing millions abroad, the least you expect is some form of recognition for pulling off this feat.  In fact I think they should go a step ahead and make it a weekend primetime show in India. Something like ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire) with a small twist. A tax inspector will be the guest and the tax evader gets to be the host and instead of general knowledge questions the tax man is challenged on some critical questions.

“Respected sir, where do you think have I parked my black money in? You have 4 options-“
a- Dubai
b- Cayman island
c- Liechtenstein
d- Switzerland

Questions will get trickier as you progress.
 “Respected sir, in your estimate how many dummy companies do I run      and in what proportion? Pick one”
a-                3 local and 5 offshore companies
b-               5 local and 3 offshore companies

There you go Star Plus. I just gave you your next show concept for free.

With the rise of taxes over the years, kids have also started asking rather uncomfortable questions like “Did Daddy make it to the tax evaders list finally?”. Which is a fair question indeed, just like property advertisements emphasize, it’s not parental love till they buy you a swanky sea facing apartment in a posh locality.

As a nation besides speculating on stocks another game that we do enjoy is betting on our neighbour’s tax evasion. So the moment we spot any remote signs of prosperity amongst our neighbours, subconsciously our mind has already started counting their black money.

“Oh! The guy who used to have cheap run-of-the-mill ice creams all these years is gorging Baskin Robbins Chocolate Mousse Royale scoops nowadays. Bet he has stashed a few crores abroad”.

Here’s hoping that something good emerges out of the GST in April 2017.Or else I am definitely opening a kathi roll shop in Liechtenstein. Farewell countrymen!
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