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M&E cos plead government for rationality in taxation

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MUMBAI: The Media and Entertainment (M&E) sector is one of the most highly taxed sectors in India. The rollout of the proposed GST (Goods and Service Tax) is expected to be a major game changer as it will simplify the tax regime by combining a multitude of national, state and local taxes. However, whether it will ease the M&E sector’s tax burden or not, remains to be seen.

A detailed panel discussion on the same was held in FICCI Frames moderated by KPMG executive director Himanshu Parekh with Viacom 18 CFO Narayan Prabhat Ranjan, Disney UTV CFO Sujit Vaidya, Tata Sky CFO G Sambasivan and Hathway Datacom deputy CFO Vineet Garg on the panel.

The financial officers put up the issue of multiple taxation policy in India and inconsistency of the government, which makes scenario less business friendly. Other major issues bothering industry is lack of clarification and the biggest sufferer of that is consumer. Speaking on what the government should do, Ranjan said, “Whenever an amalgamation takes place and there is a loss, the carry forward of losses is allowed and that is something that the government should address with immediate effect. Moreover the issue of service tax VAT and excise duties should also be paid attention at. Why should one product be taxed numerous occasions with various nomenclatures?”

Echoing Ranjan’s point of view, Vaidya added, “In other countries, if a consumer pays 100, 50 is devoted to the content. Whereas in India, due to the multiple taxation system, only 30 per cent is devoted to content. Service tax has been another pain point and entertainment tax, which varies from state to state and ranged anywhere between 10 to 40 per cent approximately is something government should look after.”

The government in numerous occasions came on record and accepted the irregularities when it comes to taxation and GST has been portrayed as a solution. But again GST is also in experimentation stage and concrete figures are yet to be displayed in public forum. Sambasivan asserted, “Things which we expected to change did not change and there is no reason to be buoyed by GST. There is no clarity on whether entertainment tax will be subsumed or not. There is a cap of 16 – 27 per cent between which the tax will fluctuate and hence no matter how much ever we plead for a rational uniform policy, nothing of that sort comes out. Now we get 30 when someone spends 100 and if this phenomenon keeps sustaining then share holders will stop putting money as all expect high return.”

“With digitization phase III and IV to follow, the opportunity of growth increases but at the same time there is a huge requirement of a consistent regulatory body, which has the intention to make scenarios business friendly. All the time we are suppose to devote on improvising and innovating our business model we are devoting on managing tax complacencies. AOP is an unnecessary hassle and hugely unwanted, my request to the government is to come to a consensus and make rational policy which is a win win for both the parties” concluded Garg.

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