Artistes concerned over 18% GST on ticketed shows

Artistes concerned over 18% GST on ticketed shows

Following an online petition started by Jagriti Theatre objecting opposing 18% Goods and Services Tax on ticketed performing art shows, artistes from other streams have also raised their concerns about the effect it will have on the fraternity.

Jagriti Theatre started the petition on Change.org on early this week urging Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the GST Council to exempt performing arts from tax as it will be a burden on artistes.

Founder of Jagriti, Jagdish Raja said, “I am not concerned about English language theatre but there are people in the country who train for years in folk and traditional forms like Yakshagana and Tamasha. For ticketed performances priced over Rs 250, the artiste will have to bear the burden.”

At present, the state government exempts drama from entertainment tax but dance and music are taxed at 10%. After the GST rollout, all ticketed performances priced over Rs 250, including local art forms, will be charged 18% tax. Raja says that exempting performing arts will not eat into the Centre’s earnings but will make a difference to people who just want to practice their art.

An online petition may not be enough and artistes should collectively approach ministers, said Srivatsa Shandilya, managing trustee of International Arts and Cultural Foundation, a non-profit organisation which held the first international transgender arts festival in 2016.

“At present, dance and music performances are charged a 10% entertainment tax in Karnataka. The increase to 18% is too much. Organisers will cut down on artiste payment and increase ticket price to make up for the costs,” he said. Srivatsa says that people who rent halls for performances are already preparing to increase the rent.

“Foreigners know India for its rich culture and heritage. The government should encourage local art forms otherwise they will perish. Art is generally not a commercial activity,” he said.

 Shashank Sanade, who recently directed a Konkani play based on Sound of Music, said that doubling the tax burden will discourage people from putting up acts. “Even though dramas are exempted from tax under the existing rules, we were harassed by officials who were trying to charge us using loopholes”

He said 18% tax was too much and if not an exemption, the government should at least lower it to under 10%. “Artistes in cities like Bengaluru may not be affected too much but it will harm those in smaller cities and towns. There is no initiative to encourage theatre and make it commercially viable,” Sanade added.

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