Come Navratri, and Gujaratis are geared up for their nine days of revelry. With dance, music and delicious food this time, there are also going to be a series of taxes. Goods and Services Tax (GST) at Centre and State level will be implied on everything; be it your garba passes, agarbati or prasad. Afterall, there are no free lunches.
Even something as basic as Amba mata’s idol is taxable and that too a whopping tax of 12%. Blessings come for free, wooden or metal idols don’t. Up next, your vibrant chaniya choli is also taxable. On chaniya choli that cost less than Rs 1000–5% GST is applicable while the ones that cost more than Rs 1000–12% GST are applicable.
If everyone is taxed, no one is taxed believes Ahmedabad-based Chartered Accountant and founder of NJ Jain & Associates Nitesh Jain. He said, “Moderate GST on all products/items related to Navratri is legible. Be it oil, agarbati, sweets or mishri; all have moderate GST. The only thing to worry about are garba passes. 18% GST is a lot and this should have been controlled considering that an event like Navratri directly impacts lakhs of Gujaratis.”
How much GST are we paying on Navratri?
- Navratri garba passes-18%
- Idols of wood, stone or metal-12%
- Chaniya choli-5% to 12%
- Perfume Deepam oil-6%
- Lobhan, mishri, batasha- 5%
Tax expert and founder of Tax-O-Legal firm (GST & Customs Consultants) Monish Bhalla said, “For religious events like Navratri there are no taxes on not-for-profit events organised by temples or societies. But for commercial garba events, tax is mandatory. Societies whose total ticket collection is below Rs 20 lakhs are exempted from this tax.”
“Suppose if popular singer Falguni Pathak is performing in a garba event and charging exorbitant fees then why not tax such commercial events?” Bhalla added. When it comes to GST on other Navratri items, he said that this has always been the case–it’s only the garba passes that might burn the pocket of Gujaratis.
Case study: United Way Of Baroda
One of the most popular garba events of Gujarat is United Way. It has around 30,000 participants at any given point and 15,000 viewers. The tickets are priced around Rs 1,000 and above. According to the organizers, the annual revenue generated by the events is around Rs 7,000 cr. This includes the profit that the large-scale commercial outfits make from the event, as well as the various allied businesses that are associated with it, such as the food vendors, sound systems, and decorators.
In a mega event like UWB, “aren’t the taxes on everything related to Navratri justified here? Everything is commercial.” added Bhalla.
Earlier, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh took to Twitter on Thursday, calling the taxes on garba events as “Garba Samapth Tax ”. The Vadodara city unit of the Congress also protested against the taxes by playing garba on the campus of the Vadodara District Collectorate and submitted a memorandum.
Not just Congress, AAP workers also held protests in Vadodara and Surat city with garba performances on the streets, which led to their detention by police.