Posted in Of Culturel

Of Taxes


Indian Food at a Restaurant (Courtesy: Pixabay)

The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets. – Will Rogers

The upcoming Goods and Services Tax (a.k.a. GST) in India has taken precedence over conversations about the weather, cricket and why Bahubali had to die in Bahubali 2. Some of this won’t be familiar to my worldwide readership (about which I will always brag), but taxation is a universal experience. And forgive my inability to resist any given opportunity to pun, but few things can be more taxing.

To be honest, this is going to be one of those topics I understand next to nothing of. But, ignorance hasn’t dissuaded many from expressing their opinions, so why should I chicken out? Taxes, like death, is something nobody can escape from. Even if I buy a one rupee candy, I can’t ignore how much I am being taxed for a little bit of cheering up. It’s the principle you can’t wrap your head around. It’s easy enough when you’re on the other side, and you even have a ready defense, saying you’re participating too. Lawmakers are not exempted from paying taxes, something that took centuries to happen. We have come far, but is this really where we want to go?

Tax, Tax, Baby (Courtesy: Pixabay)

As I understand it, it’s a question of personal values colliding with social values. There is a massive petition against the taxation of female hygiene items as a ‘luxury item’, which is a fact not just in India, but most developed countries in the world. I have no interest in being sexist, but I can guess that only someone who doesn’t stretch their imagination to think what it is like to have to use female hygiene items would classify it as ‘luxury’. It is a luxury, for there are millions of girls and women who still can’t afford it.

On the other hand, kohl pencils are going to be taxed less. Now, I personally enjoy makeup, but I guess I could live without it. But, eyes being windows to your soul et al, I suppose the function of eye makeup is much more apparent to tax-makers. So, taxes, like politics of which it is only a part, is personal, and not a reflection of the times.

That’s clearly generalization, and by doing so, I am talking politics in monochrome, which is the least intelligent way to talk about it. But, politics is a lot like sport. You know what needs to be done when you’re a spectator, but the moment you’re on the field, you can feel your previously certified High Intelligent Quotient decreasing point by point as every minute goes by.

So, as a spectator, what is my view on taxes? Greater transparency? Sure. Who doesn’t want to know everything in the age of knowing far too much already? But, for ordinary people, taxes aren’t about where the money is going. It’s about why do I need to shell out so much in the first place. You can’t present me with a sub-par item, and then justify its cost by saying, “Sorry, taxes.” Mall food, for example. Entertainment is luxury, but that doesn’t mean you serve me any old s***. India has great street food in every corner, and I think it is time for me to participate in the irony of modern India more fully by watching a movie at a multiplex (standalones have been dying out for a few years now due to rising prices, which are due to…yeah, you guessed it) and eating chaat to satiate my hunger afterwards, right outside the mall. Because not only is that chaat relatively tax-free and tastes better, it doesn’t get me sick like overpriced popcorn does.

Popcorn (Courtesy: Pixabay)

That’s probably the best justification for taxes. It puts you off from buying anything in the first place. You learn to let go, because you’re too angry to hold on. I’m sure that’s not how industries see it, for if they did, they’d lower taxes immediately. Or maybe they’d like to tease you with more, and offer discounts later on. If you haven’t guessed by now, this essay has not been written by an economist.

But, it has been written by a consumer, and I am perfectly within my rights to complain if I want to. I have been watching travel vlogs by this adorable Dutch vlogger called Ivana, who was in India last November, when 500 and 1000 rupee notes got banned. What followed was people queuing in banks and ATMs for months and months, and the situation isn’t back to normal even now. She observed how Indians had not only taken this extreme situation in their stride, there were many who even commended it. This wouldn’t happen in several other countries, and sure enough, Venezuela banned currency of a certain denomination a while after, but had to immediately stop proceeding with it.

By recounting the above, I want to highlight India’s ability to endure. This is neither a political observation, nor an attempt at sentimentality. It is our tendency to give things a chance, to put up with almost anything, and to commiserate when things aren’t working out. How we deal with the Goods and Services Tax will also be interesting to watch.

How do you feel about taxes?

To learn more about the GST, click here:

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