Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bargaining for trouble!

If someone as intimidating as I am (with a walrus moustache, 200lb displacement and stature well beyond six feet from the ground), can be confused, irritated and helpless with where things are heading… then I guess life’s definitely not better for any other law-abiding tax-paying commoner in India.

The millions who parch their throats dry bargaining over a dozen bananas, but remain mute spectators in a system that sucks out their lifeblood in the name of personal tax: Ashamedly I am one of them. What we call the Great Indian Middle Class (GIMC).

Life was bliss and everything seemed just fine, until the day my employers decided to reward me with a little more. My new pay check was a pleasant shock. Pleasant because I was costing them more than before; and a shock because it came with a tax clause (read claws) that clipped my net salary and dipped it below my current earnings.

Personal tax is mouse trap. A custom-made trap specially designed for the GIMC. The poor are too poor to pay; the rich are rich enough to escape its tentacles; and the divide remains the same. Except that the GIMC (the most efficient indicators of economic growth) have been too preoccupied to bother. For the past three generations, they have been slogging it out for a paradise that will never be. Like all this was not enough - the current rat race to produce the One Lac Car seems like the perfect icing on the cake of mockery.

I am not any gun-wielding anti-establishment insurgent on the run, who found his calling in high-voltage discourses on liberty, equality and justice. I am just another man, who wants his voice to be heard; whose ultimate aspiration is the ability to spend his money the way he wants.

The establishment is a company of senile old men who run it for the common welfare of their progeny and no one else. The men in white; who deserted their Ambies for faster, sportier cars (no guesses to tell who’s paying for all that opulence) somehow never bothered about the pace of our progress obstructed by frustration and helplessness.

All our Good Samaritan- Role Model Citizen - Corporate Gurus, who went on to found, manage and mentor their public-funded enterprises, pay only a notional personal tax. It’s possible because the establishment believes it to be lawful and legitimate. They couldn’t have managed their private islands and Scottish castles from their salaries after tax. The truth here is that their booties come from the dividend income and not salaries. It’s a no-brainer. On second thoughts it seems otherwise. Even their morally upright socially responsible charity initiatives are merely well-orchestrated PR exercises that are ploughed back as tax rebates.

As I write this piece, I am interrupted by an unavoidable phone call. It’s from a jubilant friend who says how he foresees drastic reforms on personal taxes in the forthcoming budget. I’m suddenly religious and summon all the gods I can remember. I wish it’s the truth.
I pinch myself and ask him to repeat what he just uttered. My heart misses a beat. It is “drastic personal taxes to budget forthcoming reforms”. Sarcasm? Hardly!!