GST on Garba! Why tax this Navratri event? Deciphering the new tax system

Navratri Garba, performed during the nine days of Navratri in honor of goddess Ambe, is one of the most popular festivals in Gujarat. Thousands of people are flocking to the state to attend the event, which begins September 26 and ends October 5 this year. With the advent of the festival, many promoters have already opened their sales for the event. However, due to the introduction of GST, the prices of passes have increased. The GST exemption only applies to operators charging less than Rs 500 per pass.

The Congress Party protested in front of the Vadodara Debt Collection Agency on Thursday, August 4, to demand a reversal of the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). According to Jairam Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha member and opponent, the tax should be called garba samaapt (give up garba).

Why the government is promoting Garba’s event

Navratri is a Gujarati word that literally means nine nights. In the state, the celebrations are celebrated with rich garba dances and various other rituals to honor and worship the goddess Ambe. During the festival, people can also worship a lamp made of earthenware pots. This symbol of the power of the mother goddess is considered a symbol of new life.

The festival is considered one of the most popular festivals in the country. It has also attracted tourists from different parts of the world. In 2003, the Gujarat government organized the “Vibrant Navratri” in the city of Ahmedabad. This event, which begins in the evening, is also considered an important part of the country’s development. During his time as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi called the event the longest dance festival in the world.

What is this new taxation and commotion about?

For the first time since the introduction of GST in 2017, event organizers have been asked to levy a direct tax on tickets to the Garba event. The largest organizer of the event, United Way of Baroda (UWB), opened its registration last week. According to a notice published on their website, the registration fee has increased significantly. The male fee has increased to Rs 4,838 while the female fee has been fixed at Rs 1,298.

Central government officials who inspected the city’s events in 2019 claimed that the event’s organizers failed to comply with government-issued notices regarding the introduction of GST on tickets during their 2017 Garba events. Because of the pandemic, the state saw no major celebrations in 2020 and 2021.

While opposition parties have criticized the government for imposing a heavy tax on a religious event, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also reportedly joined with requests from organizers and participants to exempt the event from tax.

Minesh Patel, UWB Treasurer and Trustee, told Indian Express that passports or ID cards issued for a fee or against an invoice would automatically become liable for the GST.

Mayank Patel of the Vadodara Navratri Festiva said that the organizers would not shift the burden of the GST to the participants as they contribute to the police social fund. However, they would pay the 18 percent tax on ticket sales from their earnings. He also noted that men’s tickets were around 1,000 rupees and up.

What are the GST rules for entertainment/commercial events?

A senior official from Gujarat’s GST department stated that no changes had been made to the implementation of GST on the Garba. During the pre-GST period, the service tax was levied on event entry tickets if the total amount charged for entry exceeded Rs 500. There were also embedded taxes due to the VAT credit not being available for payment of service tax.

According to the official, the 18 per cent tax rate on the entry ticket to a garba or event still applies if the total amount paid for entry exceeds Rs 500. This means that the tax rate has not changed under the new regime. In June 2017, the government announced that tickets for a particular event would be taxed at 18 per cent if the total amount exceeded 500 rupees.

Why has the GST not been collected in the last four years

The UWB stated that the Garba event was not considered an entertainment event for the purposes of the GST. Instead, it focused on providing various services to the public, such as B. Food stalls and setting up multiple structures. Hemant Shah, the chair of the UWB’s resource development committee, said the organization pays the taxes on the services provided by the vendors, but the money raised from the passes goes to a charity. He added that the donations received from the passports will be used to fund the activities of the UWB, an NGO. Every penny the organization saves by selling passes goes to help the poor and vulnerable.

Why is Garba considered a commercial event by the government?

Usually commercial garbas are hosted by organizations or clubs like the UWB. These types of events usually have tickets that range from around Rs 1,000 and up. In larger cities, the prices of these passes vary depending on the type of event. According to the organizers, the annual revenue of the events is around Rs. 7,000 Cr. This includes the profit that the big commercial outfits make from the event, as well as the various businesses associated with it such as food vendors, sound systems and decorators.

In addition to the grand prizes offered at the end of the nine-night event, the commercial venues also have various prizes, such as two-wheelers and four-wheelers. While the large commercial establishments have the necessary equipment and resources to host the events, the smaller community sheri garbas are usually organized by local residents.

Thousands of people gather at the different places of a garba to dance to the music of Gujarati folk songs. The UWB’s biggest event usually takes place in the city of Vadodara. It has around 30,000 participants and 15,000 spectators at any given time.

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