Tax Breaks

One thing that has struck me recently is about charitable organizations that try to attract donations by claiming “100% tax break under section 80G” or a similar 50% tax break or some such thing. Given how often organizations use this technique to get funds, I’m sure this works. That people do choose where to donate their money depending upon the amount of tax break they get.

I’m just trying to illustrate this concept from another angle. Let’s say you donate Rs. 10000 to a charity that has gives a “100% tax free” receipt. So effectively your taxable income goes down by Rs. 10000. And considering a 10% marginal tax rate (ignoring cess, surcharges, etc.) your tax payable comes down by Rs. 3000. So effectively, you have donated ONLY Rs. 7000 to this charity and forced the government to pay the balance Rs. 3000.

Do you see the catch in this tax-break scheme? Essentially the government is forced to pay money to charity at the behest of a single citizen! By granting this “tax free status” to a charitable organization, the government is making itself liable to commit unlimited funds to this particular charity (of course I suppose that it isn’t easy to get such breaks for your organization, and considerable greasing of palms is involved. But considering that a small charity run by my extended family gets 50% tax break it may not be very hard after all).

So yeah, I’m sure the numbers will be available somewhere but i’m too lazy to find it. But I’m interested in finding out the aggregate deduction sought by all taxpayers put together under this section 80G (the one where you get tax exemption for donations). And then see where the government’s forced charity is headed!

The TDS Scam

Tax Deducted at Source. TDS. A wonderful measure by the government to hide from us what they are taking away from us. The concept that there is a substantial difference between your “cost to company” and your “take home pay” has been ingrained in all off us, and so we don’t question the diffference. This way, it makes it easy for the government to take away large amounts of money as tax, without really making the taxpayers feel it.

I’ve messed up. Due to a combination of reasons I haven’t yet filed my tax returns for last year (2008-09) and now my tax advisor tells me I have two weeks to do it. And calculating the tax payable for the umpteenth time, I now notice that there has been an error in all my previous calculations. And the additional tax that I need to pay (has to be paid along with a fine for paying late) is not insubstantial.

TDS is a necessary system in order to enforce compliance and putting in checks and balances into the system. It helps the government get its finances on time and save a large part of trouble in revenue collection. What it does, however, is to obscure the amount of tax that is being deducted. A clever method, I think, devised by governments to take away a large part of your money from you without you noticing it!

Of course this is accompanied by this ritual called filing tax returns when you do get a chance to see how much the government has taken away from you, but considering that for most people most of their taxes would’ve been accurately deducted, most people would just go through the process mechanically and few would actually look carefully at the numbers!

The next time you are doing your returns, I strongly urge you to look at the numbers carefully. Look at how much you have actually earned, and how much of it is being taken away by the government without you really noticing it! Open the calculator in your mobile phone and calculate the proportion of time you work every year for someone else – for someone called the sarkaar. There’s a good chance you’ll start demanding more from the government after that.