Tuesday, December 29, 2009

FBT - The new old avatar - Article in www.taxindiaonline.com

Perks are no light Munch
DECEMBER 29, 2009

By Subhashree Kishore

"WE are a poor nation and must learn to live accordingly…", J.M Keynes advised the Britons in late 1940‘s. The same holds true for us Indians. If as a part of the harried that is salaried class you have been frothing at the lips about the volte face in FBT, vide Notification No. 94/2009, dated 18-12-2009, KINDLY (no pun intended) DESIST.

Tossing it up like Hercules and Lord Atlas

Rapid development comes with industrialisation. Companies, the architects of this growth must be allowed to function in a hassle free environment. It doesn't do for them to be worrying about and footing enormous tax bills. Think of the man hours lost in calculating value of perks, compliance cost and hours billed by tax experts. The employee meanwhile draws his salary rather freely, savours his perks and walks home with a heavy purse and light heart. An unfair world indeed! Shifting the burden on employees and also insisting that dues of the entire financial year be recovered before the taxed can recover from the shock is a master stroke. We can now have employees lean, mean, and hungry working harder to earn more. That would push up productivity.

Resisting winds of change

Some reports have cried hoarse that the new rules are hardly so, and it is just a reinstatement of the pre-2005 position. These cries have nothing new in them. Tax laws are never fair or clear. Besides we need to say something for constancy. The student of tax will, as his counterpart did over a decade ago, struggle with 1.6 L capacity of engine and myriad calculation of personal and professional use of car and value of accommodation.

Making the assessee green (about the gills)

Another fact which has escaped the notice of most of the mourners is that the rules are environment friendly. While perks in form of gas, electricity, air-conditioners and cars are taxable, expenses on mobile phones and telephones, actually incurred on behalf of the employee by the employer, are exempted. So, WALK AND TALK to your heart's content. Sceptics may argue that lobbyists would have asked phones to be exempted because they are indispensable to business, are easy to account and would make up a large figure of expense to set off against company earnings. The booming telecom industry would be hit if employees treated company mobiles like plague. So let us play the deaf adder to these cries.

Pl. click to read more http://www.taxindiaonline.com/RC2/inside2.php3?filename=bnews_detail.php3&newsid=10155

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Elite middlemen

Management graduates from elite B-Schools and top business honchos are turning to vegetables, provisions and milk these days. The scale is different and the presentation is tempting - but the new age business leaders flocking to goods from the farm and stable is something which the poor village kisan would have never dreamt of. And if these big sharks enter and commence their march with merchandise, the unorganized poor get stampeded. Markets are touted as remunerative but the gloss of the malls and its exorbitant overheads hardly conceal the reality of exploitative prices that the tiller has to contend with. Farmers commit suicide but vegetables sell at sky high prices - What else can explain this paradox but for the modern middlemen from big business selling GM vegetables and fruits?- GK

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Article in taxindiaonline on new Direct Tax Code

New Direct Taxes Code: Comforting the comfortable! - Is it Income Tax's H1N1?

SEPTEMBER 02, 2009

By Subhashree Kishore

(H1N1 is a variant of the 1919 Spanish Influenza,and the present Direct Tax Code is a variant of the Income Tax Act of 1961. Both are curable but fatal if left untreated.)

The New Direct Tax Code has been hailed and hollered as per individual tastes. It claims to make the process simpler and intoxicate assessees into compliance.

Well, it begins earnestly enough by merging the assessment year and financial year concepts and removing the resident not ordinarily resident proviso. It seeks to tax��on-profit (a much maligned term) organizations at 15%. It is sincere in promotion of economic activities and fuelling investment and growth by bringing down rate of corporate tax, doing away with STT and indefinite carry forward of losses. It is true to industry by relaxing the individual tax slabs so that people have more purchasing power.

Amongst the bright lights and concentrated intellectual exercise of over three years to sweeten taxes, unfortunately at the end of the day, as usual, the individual tax payer has got a raw deal.


The simplest ‘technical’ error in the carefully drafted code is ‘turst’ an unexplained word which appears in Part D, Clause 101 (3). It may however be overlooked considering that this section could hardly touch salaried classes as the threshold limit for wealth tax has been generously hiked to Rs. 50 Crores.

Renting ideas from Uncle Sam

The bursting of the realty bubble in the US led to a global depression-like (depression is after all a bad word) situation and hence every attempt has been made to deglamourize this sector.
Once the draft code becomes law, an assessee can no longer claim deduction in respect of housing loan interest, should he choose to live in the house that he built. Repayment of housing loan also does not qualify for deduction under the investment bracket. So he should choose to live as a tenant rather than go through the arduous process of building a house, committing himself to EMIs and still end up paying more tax.

Of course, the tax slabs will be enhanced and income upto Rs 10 lakhs attracts only 10% as per the new Code. But factor in the taxable perquisites, denial of exemption in respect of HRA, medical reimbursement and EET regime - his gains are negligible. Again the Code is not clear on treatment of capital gains on sale of residential property. One can only claim residual exemption by investing in the Capital Gains Deposit Scheme.

Firing at elderly with 'Cannon' of Equity

In pursuit of “all being equal before law”, everyone has been placed at equal disadvantage. Retirement benefits have been skillfully deprived of any benefit in the new Code. All new payments into various Provident funds will be taxable on withdrawal. The only relief is if the same is used as a rollover - to buy annuity or invest in the same account or other account with the permitted intermediaries namely

(a) approved provident fund;
(b) approved superannuation fund;
(c) life insurer; and
(d) New Pension System Trust;

All other instruments like the NSCs, bank fixed deposits and equity-linked schemes have been closed out. So everyone, be from public or private sector, who plans for his life after superannuation has few options but to trust the New Pension Scheme or buy whole life policies which are exempt from tax on receipt of money at the end of contract period. In effect, though retirees may enjoy higher threshold limit, they can hardly bank on the money saved in working life to see them though the autumn.

The only way to enjoy your money seems to be to keep it as far from you as possible!

Children with new toys

Exempt-exempt-taxable (EET) was the long-time slogan of the finance ministers. It does have a stylish ring about it. It has no intrinsic merit so as take the pride of place in income tax law.
Withdrawal fails to satisfy the definition of income. The money has been saved from tax-paid or taxable income. It is not an additional income. One may agree with taxing appreciation in value or interest. But principal is not income. It would be better to classify the aggregated savings and withdrawals under wealth. Then most assesses would benefit under the Rs.50 crore umbrella.
Let us be clear. Either something is exempt or taxable. We need not bring in temporal dimension and postpone the pain.

To read full article please click

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Declaration of assets – Much ado about nothing

After Punjab & Haryana High Court Judge Justice Mr. Kannan and Karnataka HC Judge Justice Mr. Shylendra Kumar declared their assets and brought pressure on Apex Court to declare the assets of Supreme Court Judges also, the elite media is elated. While one segment views it as revolution in transparency in respect of those holding public office, others are euphoric over the effect that such disclosure will have on checking corruption or amassing of wealth by extraneous means by others. It is surprising that the issue has bitten the judiciary from the legislators who have been forced to reveal something during the elections. The effect of affidavits filed by our politicians on the levels of corruption is better not discussed. In this ocean of bribery and manipulation, one can well imagine the impact of disclosure of assets. It can be proudly said that we compare with the developed world where such asset declaration is made by the judiciary. Right from election funding to corporate frauds, the so-called developed nations lag no behind in all things shady and loathsome. These voluntary or administrative measures are cosmetic as in the next 100 years you will not get a property deed registered without bribe, you will not get a motor driving license without bribe or your building plan sanctioned without greasing a few. If from next year, no RTO demands speed money, one can laud the campaign on asset declaration. Pessimistic one may say but reality is often synonymous with it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Independence Day Greetings

Happy Independence Day

More than 6 decades – still the debate rages. Only political freedom and no economic independence – the cry has not changed all these years. We may argue on such controversies but there can hardly be any doubt that India as a nation, need to travel a long way before at least a decent majority is guaranteed of basic necessities. The agenda of development has become so twisted that there are as much opinions as the population itself on what is to be done.

On the one side we have all hi-fi analysis touting the invasion of television in rural households as a giant leap in India’s growth story. The mobile phone revolution and use of hi-tech gadgets by the vegetable vendor is seen as second liberation. Somebody suddenly talks of building temple as the only way forward and later wants to bring back all black money stashed in foreign banks. In the midst of all confusion, gay marriage becomes the number one issue – the reforms in this direction is advocated as the panacea to root out all social evils and to bring India in the league of developed nations.

The avaricious Sensex which is the most insensitive index vis-à-vis all social problems, is the only barometer for the pundits to measure our wellness. For some driving out industry is an achievement. For some naxals are a menace while the corrupt babus and netas are not. Installation of statues will improve the living conditions of the downtrodden and of course, others also. Till the other day, global best practices and integration were proclaimed as sine qua non and now, they say Indian economy managed to save its skin from economic chaos because of relative insulation.

All this apart, starvation deaths continue to be reported. Children and women in remote villages suffer and die of malnutrition, hunger and lack of medical attention. No social security for the aged and infirm who must work till they land in the grave. The more we talk about (in)sensitivity, civic (non)awareness, social (ir)responsibility, etc., the more pessimistic it sounds. Independence Day gives us some time to reflect on what we need and what don’t, where we are headed and where we ought to, what are the values with which our individual and social lives have become polluted and what are the values we should yearn to imbibe…Let me think first rather than being preachy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Run up to Budget 2009-10

Will Budget Premier League deliver?
JUNE 09,2009
By Subhashree Kishore

IT is time to get glued to the electrified at times frenzied ‘knowledgeable’ gentlemen. They will tell us what to expect, when, why, wherefrom…… they stake their sleep and sanity to get our attention. The privileged few, as always will climb up Santa’s knee and whisper their wish lists during the consultations.

The Budget Premier League is set to kick off in the first week of July.

In 2008, we were booming and beaming and prayed for sweets from a rich uncle. FM - PC did deliver with income tax cuts and farm waiver. But now the mood is sombre and we are caught between the horns of fiscal prudence and fervent populism. At best we can hope that the uncle will be sweet and release a few riches.

The roar for reforms, disinvestment (in profitable PSUs) and jettisoning subsidies (leaving fuel pricing to gods) is deafening. Yes, they are a convenient way out to close the fiscal deficit without borrowing at interest as well as pleasing the industry. Interestingly America’s fiscal deficit is around 12%. But such deficits are dangerous for us - or so we are told.

Well, we can’t borrow, exports are down and we are finding it difficult to create jobs - without direct cost to the exchequer that is. Yet we don’t find homes being sold for one dollar or top industrialists bicycling to office. We find political parties spending hundreds of crores in ad campaigns alone in the just concluded polls. So, there is money somewhere and before reaching for the family silver we may ponder over these...

To read the full article click

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Letters to Editor - The Hindu

Opinion - Letters to the Editor LTTE’s defeat

The Sri Lankan government should engage in a reconciliation exercise and adopt measures to eliminate discrimination against the Tamils. If the causes that gave rise to the LTTE are not addressed, the void created by its defeat will be filled in no time.

G. Gokul Kishore,
New Delhi

Monday, April 27, 2009

Letter in FE

Letters to the editor : Saving grace

The editorial (‘Floor for rate cut?’, Apr 22) argues that the government-fixed small savings interest rates are higher than what banks may be able to offer and hence, distort competition. Small savings schemes offer both safety and stability of income. We can hardly deny the consumer better services by pulling one down to the level of the other. The editorial bats for the industry at the cost of small investors. It cites underbanking, but it’s wrong to say that PSU banks have failed in this respect, as neither foreign banks nor new generation private banks have any rural penetration. Small savings is the best avenue the small investor can ever get. Withdrawal of tax benefits to interest earned, which diminishes the attractiveness of bank deposits, is a point validly made.

—G Gokul Kishore New Delhi

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Letters to Editor - The Hindu

Letters to the Editor Politicisation

It is unfortunate that the Sri Lankan Tamils issue is occupying centre stage in Tamil Nadu politics. Every party is trying to outdo the other in portraying itself as the champion of the Tamils’ cause. The ruling DMK is resorting to flip-flops to ensure that even while it remains part of the UPA, it is not compelled to yield ground to other parties.

The real issue has been obfuscated and the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils has become secondary in comparison with the LTTE, which is getting undue coverage and misplaced sympathy.

G. Gokul Kishore,
New Delhi

Friday, April 10, 2009

Vaiko's Speech - Letters to Editor - The Hindu 10-4-2009

Mr. Vaiko’s inflammatory speech is unacceptable. India, already battered by terrorism, cannot afford to allow such leaders to sow the seeds of discord and misguide the younger generation.

G. Gokul Kishore,
New Delhi

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Article on Poll Reforms - Unpublished by media

Poll time - Debugging franchise
By Gokul Kishore & Subhashree Kishore

It is poll time again in India. And it is time too to put electoral reforms on the agenda again. The Election Commission of India has begun blown the bugle with the proposed curbs on exit polls.

Democracy evolved to counter concentration of power - monarchy or other forms which often ended up in abuse of power. But de jure leaders in today’s democracy remain de facto kings, no matter victorious or vanquished at the hustings. The general decay in moral standards in public life, the perpetuation of dynastic rule cloaked in modern instruments of power and our impassive response to opportunism being ‘politics is refuge of scoundrels’ or ‘politics makes strange bedfellows’ often undermine faith in this form of governance.

Democracy has become all about winning elections, consolidation and staying rather than serving. Of course some incidental progress happens and India manages to be a functional democracy with separation of powers and guarantee of civil rights but good governance remains elusive. Experiences of developed nations reveal that proportional representation or opinion polls cannot combat selfish interests or bad decisions.

Electoral reform is a topic often debated when the polls are round the corner only to be consigned to the backburner later. Asset declaration and general media outcry against criminals in the fray are major developments perceived as having brought semblance of reforms. But the agenda remains unfinished and of course, daunting. Certain measures do suggest some changes but are confined to addressing administrative difficulties and costs. Something concrete is yet to come up to ensure fairer elections. For, a climate of responsibility is a must and elections should be treated with the seriousness and respect they deserve. Not just because of the outgo in monetary terms, but also for the fact that the electoral process is bedrock of the system of governance we have chosen.

Campaign money becomes a quicksand of quid-pro-quo syndrome with candidates seeking to reach maximum voters in a limited time frame and trying to ‘capture’ their imagination. Hardly is there any party immune to corporate lubricants. The largesse from business houses borders on extortion once elections are in the air. State funding has been much talked about and there are no takers as obviously opinion is unanimous that public money cannot be wasted for such ‘undeserving’ exercise. The collection spree gets the tag of voluntary contribution by the loyal supporters and arms of the Indian Income Tax law do not extend in this direction. On a practical plane, campaigning should ideally begin at least six months before elections and emphasis should be on door to door campaign rather than accentuating pollution through loud speakers and festoons, paper handouts and road blocks. Mud slinging and unsubstantiated statements should cease.

Any meeting should be treated sacrosanct. Instead of rabble raising monologues, election meetings can be a two way affair with some time devoted to responding to the queries of voters. Unbridled campaign till the D-Day deprives the voter of his 48 hours of calm to reflect and decide. Campaign restrictions must also extend to other forms of media like private TV channels. Also mandating equal airtime by private channels, if they choose to broadcast political ads, will be a step towards fair campaigns. A code of conduct, self-imposed by the media, may serve the purpose.

Elections cannot be belittled nor electorate slighted by candidates choosing to fight elections whimsically hopping constituency in last minute. Election Commission of India had floated a proposal sometime back to collect cost of resultant bye-election from the candidate. A candidate oblivious of his constituency or its problems, can hardly be represent it and demand measures for its growth. A pre-condition that the candidate should have stayed in his constituency for certain specified period prior to nomination can be explored.

In this era of 24 x 7, the Indian news channels and print media with their battery of psephologists vie to give accurate forecast and analysis. In this process, caste and religion wise vote share is highlighted rather disproportionately. Statistical or scientific analysis may be unbiased but the obsession with such divisive factors is counter-productive and diverts focus from larger issues. Reasonable restrictions must be imposed on such analysis. We don’t need constant reminders about our differences through lens (dis)coloured by caste/religion or social strata. With elections becoming a major law and order issue, staggered poll schedule has become order of the day. In such a scenario, attempt to gauge voting preferences through exit polls, which are inherently unreliable as respondent may not reveal his actual choice, should be regulated effectively. Election Commission has advocated restriction on publishing results of such opinion polls for a particular period.

There is no dearth of suggestions on poll reforms. The political class retains the key to usher them in. Public opinion needs to be mobilized so that the men intending to serve the public, achieve that ‘noble’ end to mutual satisfaction.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Recipe posted in NDTV.com

Idly Fry - Receipe posted in Ndtv.com by Jayasree Varadarajan (our sister)

Link : http://cooks.ndtv.com/showrecipes.asp?id=4351&dishtype=

Chef: Jayashree Varadarajan
Idlis (well cooled) - 2 to 3 nos
Red Chilli powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 2 pinches
Tomatoes medium sized - 2 nos - cut to small pieces
Onion- 1 no - finely chopped
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Green chillies - 2 nos- chopped fine
Urad dal - 1 teaspoon
Coriander leaves finely chopped to garnish
Salt to tasteGaram masala- one pinch (optional)
Cooking oil to roast idli and make gravy.
Method: Cut the idli into small cubes. Pour about 5 teaspoon of oil in a kadai and pop mustard seeds. Then add the cut idli pieces, chilli powder. Roast it for about 5 minutes so that most of the pieces get a golden brown edge. Keep this aside. Again heat oil in kadai. Add urad dal and green chillies, after a minute saute onion pieces. Add the tomatoes, turmeric powder and salt. Keep on medium flame till tomatoes are cooked and all items blend intofine gravy. You may add water if required. Turn off the gas and add the fried idli pieces. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Letters to Editor - The Hindu

This letter was published in The Hindu dated 07-03-2009

Gandhian legacy

The incident highlights the need to initiate measures to collect and bring home the invaluable belongings of our leaders. By persuading well-known museums, auction houses and collectors and by seeking the cooperation of governments, India should ensure that national treasures are not commercially bought and sold. The personal belongings of patriots are an integral part of our nation’s legacy.

G. Gokul Kishore,
New Delhi


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Letters to Editor - The Hindu

This letter was published in The Hindu dated Feb 20, 2009

The LTTE has decimated all the groups opposed to it. The Centre should make it amply clear to the political parties of Tamil Nadu that even while we support the cause of Tamils, any support — direct or otherwise — to the Tigers will not be tolerated.

G. Gokul Kishore,
New Delhi

Link : http://www.hindu.com/2009/02/20/stories/2009022052901003.htm

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Poem - this too shall pass - (NDTV.com 6/2/09)

This too shall pass
- Subhashree Kishore

Having a sudden attack of gall,
Raju said, "I'll tell all".
"Less of it, Less of it"
Cried the aces at audit.

Raju blared "I did cook books"
The missus perked up, "What cook books?
"Story of my life", Raju mused.

He weeps behind the bars
Pining for his luxury cars
His mate says "You are a fool"
You forgot the golden rule."

Never worry, never be sorry"
The baba explains looking cross
"Why volunteer to wear the albatross?
"Raju claps his forehead, "Alas!"

...