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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Religion, Children and Service Tax

“My father is a deeply religious person. He never knew that not paying service tax was both a sin and a crime.” This is one of the several punchlines used by the government to ask doctors, tailors, tutors, barbers etc. to cough up some service tax.

The government’s attempt is not very effective because of major flaws in their understanding of human behavior:

First, no religion in the world declares not paying service tax as a sin. This is not surprising, since the concept of service tax was absent even around 700AD (Muhammad’s time).

Secondly, deeply religious people are not less susceptible to committing sins and crimes. The deeply religious crusaders murdered millions of innocent people. No religion can claim to have been effective in reducing crime rate. Also, given the nature of religious feelings, one would not be surprised if he finds a businessman praying to gods to protect him from the tax department.

Also, what is going to be the response of a service tax evading father when his son asks him, “Do you pay service tax”? The father who knows all the tricks of the trade to avoid the tax shouldn’t find it very difficult to say to his son, “I pay double the due service tax”.

It will be interesting to carry out an exercise to examine whether the public money spent on such misplaced advertisements even payback the amount through higher tax collections. All the same, this is an interesting development: A supposedly secular government finally taking recourse to religion to collect taxes. Smells like Akbar’s doomed Dine-e-ilahi.

One way to ensue services like those provided by doctors, tailors, tutors, barbers etc. are captured by the tax net, is to offer minor tax benefits to people spending for these services. Everyone will then insist on getting a receipt for such services. Also, even if the service provider charges more for providing a bill, such incidents will be much easier to monitor than appealing to the conscience of the children of hard-nosed service tax evaders.


S said...

The idea is: Not paying tax is illegal. Doing illegal stuff is sinful. If you are religious then being sinful is bad. Therefore pay taxes.
Whether this is an effective ad or not is debatable but not for all the reasons you give.

Shivaji said...

Dear nephew :-)
Illegal doesn't always imply sin. Polygamy became illegal for Hindus after the Hindu marriage act. Does that mean suddenly polygamy became sinful according to Hindu religion? Kiling a person is illegal; but killing a person for the sake of jihad is not sinful and is rather rewarded through housris. Similarly while adultery is not illegal, many religions regard it as sinful. so there is no relation the way you were inspired.

S said...

Uncle Bom,
Your examples are all valid however you still miss the point. The popular idea is that illegal=sin. No advertisement is purist in that sense. Populist sentiment rules in advertising.

Aishwarya said...

Dear Government of India

As an atheist, I await confirmation that I am exempt from taxation.

Thanking you.


Thomas said...

I think in Christianity at least, illegal = sinful. When Jesus was asked about taxation, he said, "Render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser's."

On the other hand, when the government is using my tax money to invade, torture, steal, and oppress, cheating on my taxes might actually be considered a sacred and holy thing to do.

So, like most people, I'm going to do whatever I want to do, and then rationalize it.