Why our columnist wants his dentist and the taxman to trade places.
There are two events every year that I do not look forward to with any enthusiasm. The visit to the dentist – a chatty, fun-loving bloke whose jokes, with his hand in my open mouth, I cannot laugh at – and the exercise of filling in income tax forms. Somehow, this year they followed each other in quick succession and before I could recover from the dentist, I was being tortured by the taxman, so to speak. One drilled for plaque, the other for hidden wealth, and I didn’t possess either.
For some reason, the taxman believes I make more money than I actually do and asks the same question in 20 different ways to try to trip me up.
“Aha!” says the form on page two, sub-section three, “How come you haven’t declared the fact that you tipped not 200 rupees in the restaurant but only 180?” The tone is nasty and superior in the way such forms have of making you feel small.
Or there is an apparently innocuous statement: “If you can tell us, hand on heart, that you didn’t visit the toilet more than twice on your flight from Bangalore to London, now is the time to do so and you will receive a rebate under chapter six, sub-section 1.2 and clause 67 of the 1934 Income Tax Act.”
That’s easy, you think. But a lesson you learn after filling in the form year after year is that nothing is easy in the world of taxation. You think you have claimed a deduction for the red table runner you bought six months ago only to be told that the deduction is for blue table runners only and for red you actually have to pay a value-added tax. The following year, the colours change again and you are left as confused as before.
I know scientists with an international reputation, writers on the verge of winning the Nobel and mathematicians who can calculate the value of pi to the hundredth decimal place in their heads, who quail before tax forms. And how can they not? When you think you have led a blameless life, the form says: “In your statement last year you said that you have a wife and three kids, but now contradict that by saying you have a house with four rooms.”
I think my dentist and taxman should exchange places. The taxman can go where no man has gone before and dig out plaque where we thought none existed. The dentist can keep drilling until he realises there is no hidden wealth anywhere. And I can spend the time saved in my house with four rooms or with my wife and three kids.
Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.