Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Film actors don't deserve tax relief: Madras HC

Is a film actor equal to a theatre artist and eligible for service tax exemptions for his earnings? No, the Madras high court has ruled, refusing to grant exemption for actor Siddharth Suryanarayan of 'Boys' and 'Rang De Basanti' fame, who wanted to be treated on a par with theatre/folk artists and given tax cuts.

"The mere fact that there is an element of drama or acting both in case of theatre and films does not mean that the two activities are identical," said the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh in an order last week.

Siddharth, who has acted in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi movies, said his job involved skills to display different kinds of emotions, dialogue delivery skills and acting out characters specified by the film director. "These skills are not different from those of an actor who performs in a drama," he said, assailing a June 20, 2012 notification of the Centre exempting performing artists or folk or classical art forms of music, dance or theatre from the liability of paying service tax under Section 66 B of the Finance Act, 1994. Noting that same benefits are not extended to other performing artists such as film actors, Siddharth said the notification was arbitrary and discriminatory, and there was no reasonable basis behind such a classification.

The Centre, in its reply, said the distinction was based on valid differences and pointed out the huge expenditure involved in films as well as the earnings of film actors. This is distinct from native art and culture, which required protection as it is more in the nature of a non-profit activity, it said. Protection to cultural and educational rights and preserving the rich heritage of composite culture of the nation is a constitutional mandate under Article 29, the Centre said.

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