New Delhi : Yes, there’s a lot of writing about the Goods and services tax (GST). But here’s what all experts know about it: nothing. I tried to read some columns about filling out something called GST-1for monthly filing and having the vendor in sync with the supplier. I have to say, I understood more when I saw ancient scriptures in Latin at the Vatican. And I don’t understand Latin.
I read about some movie producers and restaurant owners complaining that they were put in the GST categoryof 28 per cent. This meant their professions would be taxed at the same rate as gambling. Just because it is a gamble to be in these professions, doesn’t mean the government needs to take it so literally.
Then I read some counterargument about how transparency would lead to an overall price reduction and, therefore, the 28 per cent would be okay and eventually things would be the same. It made as much sense to me as Pune’s defeat in the IPL final. That is, zero.
Some of the financial news channels and columns lately have been trying to decipher the GST rollout and how it would affect the common man. But the explanation has been so filled with jargon, and the forms and filing dates and slabs sound so confusing, that viewers and readers started thinking the explanations are in Ukranian.
And if the public is confused, the experts on the panel, mid-GST debate, look like they are going mad. No wonder the finance ministers of the states that debated and came up with this, with all its nuances, have not been seen. They are still in that room where the nuances were decided, in shock, from all the complications. And, they are also undergoing mental treatment.
There seems to be broad agreement, though, that theoretically this is a good thing. Sure, theoretically, without GST, we live in a country where a random pet can show up at your business and make a tax demand and chances are, it is a legitimate tax demand.
So, having one tax in a tax regime where 23,000 taxes exist for state, local, neighbour, building, booze preference, sexual preference, car size, shirt size and degree of baldness isn’t a bad thing. It is, however, just that: theory.
The one thing we know as Indians is the difference between theory (what’s on paper) and implementation (what actually happens). This and the period in between is what we call life.
Therefore, we are either waiting for theory to be implemented and life passes by. Or, there is such a large difference between what was said and what actually happened, that it is the length and size of a lifetime. In theory, for example, having a superfast Tejas luxury train is a lovely thing. But in practice, some genius tried to smash its window even before it had begun its debut journey from Mumbai to Goa.
In theory, social media is a lovely platform for the world to connect and display their private lives transparently. In practice, all the above plus a lynch mob, it is a threat tool, a terrorism enabler.
In theory, everyone agrees with finance minister Arun Jaitley that we need a clean, transparent taxation system. In practice, most people, even while listening to his speech, are scheming how to avoid paying it.
In theory, hoarding cash is a bad thing and changing currency notes to stop that is super. In reality, new notes don’t fit in machines, and public sector banks can’t manage queues so people get heart attacks.
In theory, it is lovely to have all states work together toward a common shared tax. In practice, people are fighting over shared water. So, sharing money would lead to new levels of Machiavellian tricks of not sharing.
So, we don’t know how GST will actually unfold. However, I do know that every time I hear a sentence in India that begins with, ‘In theory…’, I’m reasonably certain that in practice, its opposite will come true.
“Wait,” I hear you say. “If the opposite comes true, are you saying the government will pay us instead of us paying the government? That’s impossible.” Yes, that’s impossible in theory. In practice however… Cheekiness aside, this also might suggest to you that GST isn’t a good thing. That’s not what I’m saying.
I’m saying to decide whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, the world needs to know what the thing is. And there seems to be a sea of opinions and counter-opinions without someone just standing up straight and saying, “Before I argue about its merits and demerits. What is it, you ask? This is what it is.”
Source : ET