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Sunday, February 18, 2007

To Saral Or Not To Saral

I believe there are two kinds of men – those who look forward to filing Form-16 (saral or whatever) and those who get diarrhea thinking about it.
My friend Ramesh is of the first kind – he said he feels the thrill of adrenaline as he contemplates a tax form; he knows Tax law better than most lawyers. He has a separate tax chair where he sits and pores through the ancient lore of tax evasion; loopholes; deductibles;HRA; nothing upsets him.
I, on the other hand, think deductibles are sea monsters.
I believe tax evasion has a long history – if you asked American scholars (Howard Bloom, as an example) they may trace the earliest tax evasion to Athens; and go on and on about how they fought against taxes and the Persians. In American history, everything traces back to Athens; then they move onto Rome and then jump straight to 1776.
But why do people feel the need to not pay taxes?
I interviewed an anonymous source (Ramesh) for this and he explained I am looking at this the wrong way – it is not that he is avoiding tax; he said tax loopholes are similar to the Easter Egg celebration. It is an annual game in which the government hides some statement such as “Whereas the wherewithal for hereupon the party of the first thereafter habeas corpus Ramesh no pay tax” in the 1179th page of the budget. And then they go, “Now go find it”, to all the kids. Ramesh wants to be the first to find it.
What does finding that information give him (apart from lots of money)?
To find out, I asked him, “Why do you find loopholes in tax law?”
And he said, “Because they are there”.

My company’s accounts department helpfully sent all employees an excel sheet with formulae for everything so that we could easily figure out the tax we owed.
I opened the sheet and looked at rows and rows of “HRA (18-C)” and thought, “This must be simple”.
I entered all my information and scrolled down eagerly to look at my tax liability.
It came up to 200000036749.50.
It seemed huge even to me; I experimented with adjusting the numbers and got it down to 174642397.8.
At this point I thought I needed to get out of the country fast because I seemed to be paying the most tax in the country. I had two choices – either get out of the country or go to the accounting department at 4th floor.
I steeled myself and decided to get out of the country.

I had heard horrible stories of the 4th floor accounting section – there were people who went there and never returned. Some came back permanently scarred waking up screaming from nightmares in the middle of the night.
The accounting section also sent weird emails with lots of explanations (that they probably thought were helpful). I put them in junk mail and was now paying for it (literally).
I was packing up to go to some place where there were no taxes (Moon – I know that the astronauts in the International Space Station pay taxes; it is called tax deduction from space) when a couple of other tax-challenged zombies suggested going up and talking to the accounting guys. I went up.
I have always noticed that accountants have the same smirk on their face when talking to employees as auto mechanics. Have you ever tried to explain what is wrong with your car to a mechanic? He scratches his ass when you are talking, shares jokes with other mechanics, blows his nose, spits on the ground and then blows cigarette smoke in your face. The reason is they believe you are a moron – if you do not know that the carburettor power screw nuts are slightly bent, then how good a programmer are you?
Accountants are the same way – if you do not know that section 418C is one of the three health savings account deeds under which you can claim standard exemption – what good are you? Why do you even exist? You are the reason the country is going to the dogs.
(By the way, both automobile servicing and accounting are apparently men’s jobs. I have never seen a single female accountant yet.)
But accountants do not scratch their asses while you are talking to them. You have to give it to them. They are much more sophisticated.
So the accounter guy stared at me with thinly vined contempt.
“This is your excel sheet?” he asked me, showing the printout.
“Yes”.
He surveyed it and then showed it to the guys sitting next to him. They all had a hearty laugh.
He then asked me what I paid last year.
I told him.
He smiled again and said, “I did not ask your yearly tax; I am asking about the monthly tax”.
I said, “That is the monthly tax”.
Now all of the department was paying attention to me. I smiled to myself; “so you bastards now know how important I am”.
But the accountant said, “You cannnot have these kinds of savings for that monthly tax. You need to buy a home”.
I was still smiling. “I am going to buy one soon”.
The accountant nodded, looked at the excel sheet and did some calculations. Then he said, “You are not going to be paid for the next 4 months.”

“And we need your passport.”

3 Comments:

  • Hi Ramiah, I stumbled across your thoughts today and googled/read many of your posts. I sense there's lots we can complement on given that we both can convey large slabs of meaning (deal at high levels of abstraction). In particular on my inventive solutions to the problems you and I highlight.

    Sorry for using this for this message, but can you contact me at balapillai AT gmail.com? Thanks.

    By Blogger Bala Pillai, at 5:09 AM  

  • Ram-
    Saral sounded something like a toilet for masses - sulabh. So, the terminology doesn't make it comfortable. To help tax hating geeks, our IT department has come up with a software. I used that software for my last year's return and the return didn't return. (Well, along with the return, I had attached a cheque equal to a month's salary.)

    You should look at that software, it is one example on how not to make a product. Check out my review at http://justexperience.blogspot.com/2005/07/income-tax-calculation-software-from.html

    By Blogger Sridhar, at 6:35 PM  

  • Hey, landed on your blog, nice stuff. I found a cool new tool for our blogs... www.widgetmate.com It helps get latest news for our keywords directly on to our blog. I added it on mine. Worked like a charm.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:23 AM  

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