Thursday, February 25, 2010

Why Sachin Tendulkar's Ferrari Duty-Waiver is NOT a Tax-burden on the Common Man

I had long given up my habit of prolonging conversations & issuing rebuttals over contentious issues, but this one literally makes me wring my neck to do it.

On the momentous day Sachin scored 200, a friend of mine sent out an email to about 15 of his friends (including me) celebrating the record.

Let me state, for the record, that I am a great fan of Sachin and think he is one of the greatest batsmen/cricketers/Indians to have walked the face of the earth. Only that. Period. I am NOT this Sachin-maniac who blows the Sachin-trumpet at the drop of a hat. I have, around the time Sachin's form slumped, belonged to the group that wanted to see him out. I get pissed every time someone starts the "Sachin is the greatest EVER" refrain. I hate pitching Sachin against Lara or Dravid (Though I love Sachin Vs Ponting, and will unequivocally shout SACHHINN from rooftops, just because Ponting stinks as a sportsman. Even here, talent-wise, I will say that I still do wonder that if Ponting plays as many matches as Sachin, there's a good chance that he will better him {obviously hoping+praying this does NOT happen}).
Now that it has been established that I am NOT this nonsensical, illogical, reasonless, bigoted Sachin-fanatic, I will proceed.

So amongst all the celebratory messages, comes this email from one friend -
"Yup. just that he doesn't pay taxes for his ferrari car... we pay taxes for his ferrari car.. and theres a separate section of bharat petroleum that makes the fuel for his car... pointless & worthless spending by the stupid govt."

followed up by

"it was the govt that waived the taxes... fyi:120% is imported car taxes... my point is... when govt is willing to waive this.. think of ppl like kutraleeswaran who has talent but govt doesnt give a heed to him.. i wish you dont support govt in this issue.
And it was sachin who asked to waive the duty,,, useless fellow..."

I've heard this refrain many times before in my life and probably even (very very minutely) agreed once. But that was way before. Certainly not when I could apply some (at least partially "informed") thought to this funda about us paying taxes for Sachin's car.
Here's hoping this post settles the issue once and for all.
  • Of all the times in the world, this is NOT the time the Ferrari-tax issue is brought up.
    It's like reminding everyone about how Venkatraman Ramakrishnan stole an eraser from a classmate in 3rd standard on the day he got the Nobel prize.
    Alternately, if you are a person who thinks this issue must be brought up every time Sachin performs a feat, to "taint" his reputation, then read on.

  • The very notion of import duty exists to discourage Indian residents from buying goods from outside the country (importing) so local economy is benefited, i.e. the assumption that if the person did not import the car, he would buy it inside the country, thereby boosting the economy (in whatever infra-small measure possible), besides adding to the country's income via taxes is relevant. In Sachin's case, he did NOT buy the car. Though I dont claim to have read Sachin's mind then, I honestly believe he did not have any idea of buying the Ferrari Modena in India (if it was indeed available for sale in our country). Hence, in any case, there was (mostly) no income in the taking for the GoI.

  • That a company like Ferrari, with almost no affiliation to cricket, recognized Sachin's feat (of equalling Bradman's 29 Test centuries) is, by itself, an award worthy of recognition.

  • The notion that the Indian citizen pays for the Rs. 1.13 crore that was waived is false. Utterly. This 1.13 crore was additional income for the GoI, NOT a loss that was/had to be compensated by increased taxes. In any case, I find it highly amusing+unlikely that Jaswant Singh, while tabling the 2003 Budget in Lok Sabha, would've said this - "Owing to a loss of Rs. 1.13 Crores on the duty waived for Sachin Tendulkar's car, I have hereby decided to increase the tax by 0.5% for all income brackets."
    THIS is when you'd have been paying money from your pocket for Sachin's Ferrari. And this is NOT the case.

  • If you purposely want to spoil the party as you don't think Sachin's 200 is a big deal (since it came in the batsman's paradise that Gwalior is, apart from the small size of the stadium), here's what - even I am a trifle disappointed with the 200. Ideally for me, the 200 should've come against one of the foll. teams -
    • England with an attack of Ian Botham, Fred Trueman & Douglas Jardine.
    • A West Indies attack of Joel Garner, Walsh, Ambrose & Malcolm Marshall.
    • Australia with Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Damien Fleming, Jason Gillespie.
in one of these grounds -
    • Lord's
    • WACA, Perth
    • Sabina Park/Kensington Oval
    • Kanpur
Unfortunately, since none of this can happen and also seeing that on more batsman-friendly AND smaller grounds than Gwalior, apart from weaker attacks, no one has actually scored 200 in an (Men's) ODI, I think this can be called a record, dear-skeptical-dude.
  • Legally speaking, the waiver isn't eligible for a "gift", only for an award. Basically, Ferrari gifted awarded Sachin the car because he BROKE A RECORD, and not because -
    • He got married.
    • He got a kid.
    • He bought a new house.
From a very twisted perspective, the award is still a gift, but it qualifies more as an award than a gift. In any case, the government itself introduced a modification to the act and "the amended section Section 25 gave the Government sweeping powers to allow customs duty exemptions on a case-to-case basis".
  • Ultimately, and I deliberately say this last because I hope the other points were an exercise in Logic & Rational Thinking for you - Ferrari PAID the entire Duty after seeing the sad situation prevailing in the nation (going by both Sachin's Wiki Page and this other article).

I rest my case.

[Footnote: I am extremely happy that there are folks that care to think about national well-being (often, somewhat like those folks that complain about the eternally-poor service in Airlines in India). I could easily have slipped in 'When there are politicians that swindle crores of money from the Government, why can't Sachin deservedly & fairly get a 1.13 crore award from the GoI?' as logic, but refrained since it is, again, another of your eternal complaints. My only plea to you - do not lose this national-welfare streak in you, try to also accommodate some rational thought and genuinely-informed-opinion-formation along with it.]
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