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     Volume 4 Issue 55 | July 22, 2005 |

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A Homemaker's Woes

Anita Rahman

June is not my favourite month. It's hot, it's wet, the school is closed so the children pounce on you like hungry wolves demanding your time and attention, and above all, the budget is announced and the prices of everything shoot up.

I am not one of those people who are enthusiastic about the budget, and spend hours together in front of the TV, with their notebook and pencil in hand (which my father used to do). The budget has never brought me any joy so far and it is not likely to do so even in the very distant future.

As a rule, I read or watch anything remotely technical or professional only when it cannot be postponed any further. So, it was with a lot of reluctance that I picked up a copy of the budget speech before I went to attend a seminar on the impact of the budget. I love attending seminars--they are a good excuse to stay away from household chores for a while, and to catch up with old friends whom you do not regularly meet. And of course, there is the added opportunity of falling asleep if you sit in the back.

But this time, I was unlucky. I had to sit in the front row, and could neither sleep nor gossip. Pretending to look serious in front of the camera, I read the entire budget speech, and rushed back to write this (as you may have guessed by this time, I also write something only when it cannot be postponed any further).

As an ordinary homemaker, I found certain things which appeared unfair and in some cases, quite insensitive. Let's give a few examples:

We understand that the ceiling of tax exempt income for individual tax payers has been increased to Tk. 120,000 from the existing Tk. 100,000. Also, the limit of total income that attracts the highest rate of income tax has been raised from Tk. 900,000 to Tk. 1,020,000. But the fact remains that we are required to pay taxes ranging from a minimum rate of 10 percent to a maximum rate of 25 percent (subject to production of various documents, and facing numerous questions and queries from the Income-Tax authority), whereas undisclosed income can be regularised by paying only 7.5 percent tax on an unlimited amount without any explanation.

Dividend distribution tax, previously paid by the company itself, has been withdrawn and the individual shareholders will now pay withholding advance tax at 10 percent. Not only will it mean reduction of income for the small investors, it will also mean the added hassle of adjustment thereof with his/her income-tax return. What will happen if the shareholder's total annual income is below the tax exempt limit of Tk. 120,000, and does not attract any tax at all?

Thousands of words have already been written about the increased VAT on mobile SIM card. I would only like to add that a mobile phone is no longer a luxury or comfort item, it is a necessity. A mobile in my hand not only allows me to communicate, it also gives me the confidence when I travel to unknown places and the comfort when I leave a sick parent at home, and a small active child at school.

In addition to all this, the Custom Duty has also been increased on various educational and household items. Custom Duty of 7.5 percent has been imposed on drawing or colouring books and music notations. I was quite shocked when I read this. Drawing, colouring and music enhance the imagination and creativity of children, how much extra revenue does the government expect to earn from this?

Sixty five percent supplementary duty has been imposed on uncooked pasta as well as roasted cereals (thereby making it unaffordable for us) and 20 percent supplementary duty has been imposed on detergents. As some of us have the distinction of having the dirtiest children in town, perhaps we may claim a "Dirty Schoolboy Discount" from the manufacturer / tax authority.

The prices of motor vehicles, upholstered seats, chandeliers etc. have also increased. But I am not going into that. If things go on like this, then the only lifestyle I will probably be able to afford is The Daily Star Lifestyle every Tuesday.


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