It’s the Golden Age for Indian CAs

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - Anuvab Pal

Con­sen­sus seems to be that a lot of peo­ple are com­plain­ing that we have to file too many goods and ser­vices tax (GST) re­turns. My prob­lem is the op­po­site. I am un­happy that GST fil­ing re­quire­ment is only three times a month. That’s too few.

Just when I de­cided that in the age of dis­ap­pear­ing soft­ware jobs, re­duced eco­nomic num­bers and ab­sent growth rates, my real call­ing — away from com­edy — was to be a per­son who files GST things. There’s huge po­ten­tial there. No­body knows what they are fil­ing so the act of fil­ing it­self can be an art.

Yes, there have been lots of GST pre­sen­ta­tions at many com­pa­nies. When you leave one of those ses­sions, it feels like a peek into US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s brain: con­fus­ing, mad and un­pre­dictable.

There’s also an­other sim­i­lar­ity with the US pres­i­dent. You have to file the re­turns al­most as of­ten as Trump tweets. And what you’ll file cur­rently has the same co­her­ence as his tweets: that is, zero. The only dif­fer­ence is, you don’t leave Don­ald Trump’s brain poorer than when you peeked into it. Here, you do.

Be­fore GST hap­pened, ev­ery­one said, ‘Well, the­o­ret­i­cally, one tax for one na­tion is way bet­ter than all those many that ex­isted.’ Now peo­ple are say­ing, ‘We all agree some­thing hap­pened. And some­thing needs to be done about what hap­pened. But we’re not quite sure what.’

The only equiv­a­lent from reg­u­lar life I can think of is if you the­o­ret­i­cally be­lieve it is bet­ter to be clothed than naked and sud­denly, with­out warn­ing, a naked per­son runs past you with some­one des­per­ately try­ing to put a jacket on him. That’s how I’d sum­marise the past month of GST.

Peo­ple are so un­cer­tain about what to do next that I could say right now that the app and web­site to file one’s GST are open and, ‘We need to up­load it right now!’ Or I could say, ‘We need to up­load it every al­ter­na­tive 17 days and only on Re­liance Jio phones!’ And you’d prob­a­bly be­lieve both.

The gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple are in a game of a ro­man­tic first date with the for­mer say­ing, ‘Right, my app is ready. File now.’ And we’re say­ing, ‘No, you ex­plain what we’re fil­ing. I don’t un­der­stand. What’s an in­put credit?’

The re­sult be­ing we’re all stuck in a chicken-and-egg game and no one is cross­ing the road.

Many years ago, some­one had coin- ed the phrase, ‘The medium is the mes­sage’. Here, the fil­ing of the re­turns is more de­tailed than the tax it­self. Given that our tax pay­ment num­bers, com­pared to other coun­tries, are so low, the Indian gov­ern­ment may feel the act it­self should be re­peated so of­ten that it be­comes a habit. Like show­er­ing.

Doesn’t mat­ter if you don’t ac­tu­ally owe any tax. As a fi­nan­cial ex­pert ex­plained, “Say, I have nil earn­ings. I am still fil­ing some three re­turns a month say­ing I have nil earn­ings. Not only is it cum­ber­some, it is a three-time re­minder that I am a loser.”

The1990s may have been the golden age of Indian tech­nol­ogy. But this is, in­deed, the golden age of the Indian char­tered ac­coun­tant. My hope is that the GST fil­ing is made daily. And it isn’t just lim­ited to goods and ser­vices. It could be an ex­tended note to cover how I felt that day, emo­tion­ally, fi­nan­cially, mat­ri­mo­ni­ally, Ex­cel­wise, other­wise — and sub­mit­ted as a note to the gov­ern­ment, linked to my Aadhaar card, so that the gov­ern­ment knows how every ci­ti­zen is do­ing that day, like any wor­ried mother would.

So, in the fu­ture, it would be the only re­turn that came back with the note, ‘Eat more veg­eta­bles, you look un­fit.’

Count our bless­ings

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