Lost in transition

AIR-CONDITIONING doesn’t feel like much of a luxury in parts of India, but the taxman begs to differ. Cooled restaurants are deemed posher. Their patrons are liable to additional taxes the unventilated masses do not bear. Luckily for sweat-prone diners there is a catch: the tax only applies to the service and not the food, so only part of the tab incurs the extra levy. In their wisdom, India’s bureaucrats once decided that 60% of a restaurant’s offering is food, and so air-conditioning triggers a service tax payable on just 40% of the bill.

Indirect taxation in India often seems the product of a micromanaging bureaucracy run amok. The result of combined taxes levied by its 29 states, union territories and the central government is that the same products in different regions, or different products in the same region, are taxed at different rates. This makes it difficult to trade between states. Tariffs are enforced by internal borders at which lorries languish for hours. It also distorts the economy in favour of goods and services taxed at lower rates (usually as a result of energetic lobbying). The agreement in August to subsume all manner of…Continue reading

This post was originally published in the Economist.

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Lost in transition

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