Lindsay Pereira: GST take my money, will you?
If the Goods and Services Tax fails to change your life, please wait for the next scheme that will come with a new set of promises
Some restaurants levy a Service Charge which, I'm told, is different from a Service Tax. There’s a Swachh Bharat Cess and Krishi Kalyan Cess too. Pic/PTI
I don't know how the Goods and Services Tax (GST)âis going to make my life better. I don't understand it, because I am neither a trader nor a restaurateur or a small business owner, and I'm told representatives of all three groups have a different understanding of how it will make their lives better too in the days to come.
I am not an economist, which doesn't really matter because people who are supposedly qualified economists in this country can't seem to understand what is going on either. This is why some of them recently screamed from the rooftops about how demonetisation was going to make India a better place, while a bunch of their colleagues referred to it as the biggest blunder in independent India's history.
It's been months since demonetisation happened, and I'm still waiting for my life to get better. Nothing appears to have changed, but I'm told I must be patient, because these big moves take time to trickle down. I expect my life to get better when I turn 50, which is when the effects of all these massive game-changing moves are supposed to be felt. And, if my life doesn't change for the better by then, I can always have a midlife crisis and take up gardening.
I have spent the last couple of years stumbling in and out of restaurants in a daze now. I walk in, order food or something to drink, then stare with my mouth open at the bills, which continue to baffle me. Some of them levy a service charge which, I'm told, is different from service tax. There's a Swachh Bharat Cess and Krishi Kalyan cess too, neither of which make sense to me because my city is dirtier than ever before, and the money collected from me and millions like me doesn't appear to make any street I have looked at even mildly cleaner.
As for Krishi Kalyan, I don't know if it refers to a person, a locality or welfare scheme designed to make indigenous species of flora happier. I haven't been informed, and neither have millions like me. We simply pay to keep Krishi Kalyan happy.
There's a Value Added Tax too, of course. I'm told it can be charged only on food and beverages, not on service charge, but I find it bothersome to end a meal hunched over the calculator on my smartphone, so I end up paying whatever the restaurant asks me too.
I have often considered simply handing over my wallet and asking them to take what they like, provided they leave me enough for cab fare home.
The Goods and Services Tax will eliminate all of this, apparently. I will no longer have to struggle to decode bills, and will simply smile at one tax and hand it over. Restaurateurs aren't sure about what they will charge me and millions like me yet, obviously, because this is a scheme initiated by the Government of India, which means it will be unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses without proper testing. I may wake up a few years from now and find out that my life was actually simpler before the GST came into force, but by then it will make no difference because we may have a new government that will have its own renamed schemes to launch.
I have been labelled a cynic by friends and family, for failing to believe what my government and a few Bollywood stars ask me to. I have pointed out that some Bollywood stars who talk about taxation are also the ones who have been implicated for not paying their own, but this hasn't stopped people from accusing me of being anti-national.
I'm supposed to listen to everything that the political leaders tell me, accept it all with a bag of salt, and struggle to get on with my life to the best of my abilities. It's what my countrymen do every morning, I'm told.
I suppose I am being unduly pessimistic. I should give the Goods and Services Tax a chance. If it makes life better for traders and small business owners, I will be happy for them. If it doesn't, nothing is stopping us from simply waiting for a new government that, armed with a new bunch of economists and assorted experts, will launch a new scheme guaranteeing to make our lives simpler.
I hope they give it a good name though. Everyone knows names are important in India. They are often more important than the schemes themselves.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to email@example.com