Saturday, April 23, 2011

Taxing Times

The season for tax returns is just over in the US. Its just beginning in India. Appropriate time to rave and rant on the nonsensically complex process of making out a tax return. No, I am not a tea party activist (I drink coffee and in any case, I wouldn't be seen dead with that rabble). I am just venting steam ahead of having to sit down and do the damned thing. Thankfully I only have to do an Indian tax return, but that is torture enough.

Everybody knows that the famed Ramamritham absolutely loves Income Tax. Great opportunity for framing fiendish rules and impossibly complicated forms to fill. Just consider the following evidence.

The first problem is to decide what form to fill. There are no less than 8 different forms you can fill. It all depends on whether you are a HUF or a BOI or a AOP. What if you can't figure out what those are and if you figure you are just a human being ??? Not sure - In Ramamritham's lexicon, normal human beings don't exist. 

With delicious irony, he has designed a from called Saral for dullheads like you and me (OK OK, just me). Saral in Hindi means easy.  Never mind that the form appears to be intelligible only to a rocket scientist. When somebody pointed out this irony to him, he promptly renamed it Sahaj, which is just a complicated form of the same thing - simple !!

Of course the normal calendar  is just too "saral". So came the innovation of April to March. For that we have to thank Sir Humphrey Appleby, forerunner and idol to Ramamritham. Something as simple as a calendar year is of course anathema to these venerable gentlemen.

He expects you to fill the return for something called "the previous year to the assessment year". So the assessment year is supposed to be the next year into the future so that you can file the return for the previous year !! I am now supposed to file the return for assessment year 2011-12, declaring income for the previous year 2010-11, corresponding to my financial year which is also 2010-11. Whoever dreamed of this concept deserves the highest accolade of Ramamrithamology.

As for the Form itself, I defy any sane human being (Chartered Accountants are not classified as sane! ) to be able to fill even one item. Other than the question, are you male or female, that is. Take this one for example.

"Long- term capital gain where proviso under section 112(1) is applicable (Without Indexation)-Code in SI Schedule is 22, Tax Rate is 10% ;Enter only positive value from Item B4c of Schedule CG AFTER loss adjustment under this category in Schedule CYLA and BFLA, if any. "

One of the fundamental principles of any legal system anywhere in the world is Ignorantia juris non excusat (Ignorance of law is no excuse). Somebody should file a case saying this principle has been breached by the Indian tax law - surely human brains haven't evolved to the point where they can begin to understand the Income Tax Form.