The only things certain in life are death and taxes – Mark Twain.
Or was it Benjamin Franklin? I don’t know, you tell me!
I used to laugh at this statement – why would anyone want to equate the taxman with the deadly Yamraj? I admit, money flowing out of our pockets is not a very happy feeling, but death is at an altogether different level. Or so I used to think.
Until I saw my paycheck, and realized that the taxman taketh away his share before I got to even see my money. He euphemistically calls it ‘TDS’ – “Thanks, Dumb Sucker!”
I consider myself a straightforward guy. I like to keep out of trouble and tread the straight path. I like to remain on the right side of the law and like to keep my money white. Not for me, the cheap tricks that people employ to cheat the taxman. Or so I used to think.
I remember reading in my taxation subject, long ago, that Salary is just one of the different heads of Income – the others being Income from House Property, Business Income, Capital Gains and Income from Other Sources. (yeah, if you earn something, and they don’t know what to call it, they use this heading!). I also remember learning that all the other heads of Income, except Salary, are taxed after some deduction. House Property gets a standard deduction, Business and Other Sources get deduction for all ‘legal’ expenses, Capital Gains gets a deduction for Cost of Asset. Salary used to have a standard deduction, but then some smart Finance Minister figured that the salaried suckers have nowhere to hide, so let’s spare them no deduction. (Well, if you thought that was a boring paragraph, spare a thought for the poor CA souls who have to endure 1000+ pages of such crap!!!).
Anyways, the simple truth is that the salaried class gets hit the most because of that deadly thing – TDS.
I used to think that this was pretty unfair. I mean, if I go to work in an unimaginably crowded train compartment, hanging on for dear life, all I get is a conveyance allowance for which I have to pay tax. But, the owner of the company can come to work in an air-conditioned Merc, and claim the depreciation of the car, the fuel, the driver’s salary et al as expenses and reduce his tax. I, as an employee, am not deemed fit by the Government to stay in a house where the rent is more than 10% of my basic salary. But the owner of the business can stay in a bungalow at Malabar Hill and claim the rent paid as expense if he can prove that he does ‘business’ at the bungalow. Not fair at all, screams my conscience.
But, in spite of all these unfair measures, I still thought of the ‘jawan’ in Kashmir, guarding the borders in freezing climate, and decided that if my paying taxes helps pay for their sacrifice, I shouldn’t grumble about it. Or so I used to think.
But, when I see roads with potholes, thanks to some contractor who greased some babu’s palms, when I see my money going down Mumbai’s drains instead of the rainwater, when I see politicians dole out freebies to all and sundry, I sometimes begin to wonder if every citizen should dutifully pay his/her taxes. And, I doubt if it is moral duty to pay taxes when I know that it is not being efficiently used.
I begin to think, “I’d rather die than pay these bloody suckers.”
And, I slowly realize the wisdom of Mark Twain’s words.
PS: If you are a taxman, let me assure you that I have no intention of hiding my income, and will declare everything I earn, in spite of what I have written above.