Taxing times

Taxing times


Most recently, it was that time of the year when the book keeper takes away one’s bank pass book, cheque book, pay-in slip book and any other kind of financial evidence that once existed in the past fiscal year.

As March was going to wrap up, he had to write up accounts so that income tax returns could be filed within the June deadline.

This process was interspersed by searching questions on the telephone, for example: “Last April, when you wrote a Rs 50 cheque for a magazine subscription, was there a fly sitting on the northwest corner of your desk?”

Or, “The 1,000 rupees you received from that magazine in Delhi does not have a covering note detailing the title of your article, the page number on which it appeared, the break up on how much was paid for the photograph and the text. It does not give your grandmother’s maiden name or the number of gallons in the Pacific Ocean. Can you quickly give me these details?”

I even had to clarify that the 20 rupees I had paid to fix a punctured tyre was actually for a punctured tube. Unless I could get a signed memo from the vulcanising fellow, my claim for deduction from income to calculate the tax would be disallowed.

I asked if I’d have to give the break up of the 20 rupees: ‘x’ rupees to jack up the car and remove the tyre, ‘y’ amount for skilled labour, etc. “No, I will not be needing those details,” he said.

While this slanging match between the two of us went on, it would appear that I had committed a terrible sin: I had wanted to draw out some money from my bank account to buy groceries. To do that, I had to write a ‘self’ cheque.

In order to do so, I needed my cheque book. “Tch tch, can’t you leave these things with me till I finish your work?” the book keeper said. “But you have had a month to do what you have to do and I need cash to buy rations,” I replied.

He grudgingly parted with the cheque book, but with a condition that I return it within three hours and twenty six minutes. I made a beeline for my bank, wrote out the bearer cheque, endorsed my signature at the back and handed it in at the bank counter.

Then came the teller’s admonition, “You have to bring your pass book when you want to draw out cash.” The cheque was returned. “But,” I protested, “there is sufficient balance. You can check your records.”

“No matter, we must have your pass book, only then can we give you the cash,” he replied.

Breathing heavily, I tore through Bangalore’s pot-holed roads, begged for my pass book, scrambled back up to the bank counter, and presented it to the teller with the bearer cheque neatly tucked into the pass book. Would the god of bearer cheques have compassion, so I could get some of my own money to buy groceries?

The babu at the bank did not update the pass book. The bank’s printer was not working. Filling up was not necessary, they’d merely wanted to know that I did have the pass book. Some of my money from my bank account, in their merciful munificence, was handed over to me.

The book keeper peered at the pass book I had returned to him and said: “I’ll need it updated so that I can finish writing the accounts up to the year end — 31st March.”
Sigh. That time of the year.

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