I couldn't believe my eyes . There it was clear 57.39 debit balance.
O-HELL-OOOO!!!!! A debit balance in my bank account ??? I must be dreaming, I asked the guy standing besides me to pinch me and he moved off giving me dirty looks. It was a mistake, it definitely WAS a mistake .. I CANNOT have a debit balance in my bank account. Folks I am one guy who loves to have a clean record, a positive balance gives me sleepless nights, makes me feel like I have sinned or committed a ghastly crime against humanity. So like any decent law-abiding citizen I called up my bank, and told the clerk my predicament, listened to the steady hum on a dead line punctuated with deep breathing then a choking voice gasped out - You got a DEBIT balance this month? "Yes, I think they forgot to deduct some taxes from the interest I get on my savings?" I moaned, "Let me check your records sir, " ...no .. See it's clearly mentioned here .. Interest on savings = 6.32 debit . Capital Gains Tax on the interest = 7.59 credit. My hands felt clammy holding the phone as my heart pounded. I could picture the midnight knocks, a couple of sinister looking guys in black, complete with black sun glasses, even in the pitch black night, escorting me to a waiting car.
I decided to come clean and fixed up the appointment with the taxman. So there I was lugging a briefcase of papers and bills. Has it ever happened to you that you have just walked into a packed room, and people go silent in a sudden hush and give you furtive glances, refusing to look into your eyes and you hear murmurs behind your back and then somebody sidles up to you and in a conspiratorial tone whispers in your ears "Your fly is open" !
Well.. I had exactly that feeling - a deathly silence preceded me giving wake to a low hum as I walked past. I could hear snatches of conversations .. whisper untaxed debit balance .. whispermaybe arrested . whisper. yeah .. it's terrible! My facial expression resembled that of a condemned man who has just been told that his hanging date was brought forward by two years as I entered the tax officer's cabin.
He hmmed intermittently as he read my application, the hmms growing louder and faster as he neared the end, he was actually shaking when he put down the application on the table pulled out a small box and popped 2 pills in his mouth as he desperately tried to get his breathing down to normal, frantically clawed at the phone and mumbled 'you gotta see this'. I think the man who came in must have been his supervisor and they both went into an a low toned conversation in as I conjured up images of me being arrested and paraded in the streets with handcuffs, having my picture taken with a board stating my name and personal identification number. The grave visage of the tax officers forebode of the ill winds flowing my way, "There has been a terrible mistake here" croaked the supervisor "we're extremely sorry that you have to go through all these on account of our laxity, but don't worry Sir, we'll see to it that you are taxed properly this time and your bank balance goes in the red once again" consoled the tax officer. "I just cannot imagine how this big an amount passed through our checks. Do you know that there are lots of people in the world whose per capita income is the amount we have left untaxed for you? A whole family can live for a year on this amount." I nodded quietly as I was taught in school NEVER to speak when you have a big lump in your throat. "Oh by the way how do you manage to survive every month?".. I swallowed and explained slowly "That's easy to explain officer, as you can see I have four concurrent loans, the first I take to pay for my monthly grocery and other expenses, the second loan I take to pay off the first loan I took to pay for my monthly grocery and other expenses, the third loan is for paying off the second loan which I took to pay off the first loan which I took to pay for my monthly grocery and other expenses, the fourth loan is for paying off the third loan which I took to pay off the second loan which I took to pay off the first loan which I took to pay for my monthly grocery and other expenses. So now I just pay interest on the fourth loan. And interest on loans are non-taxable." I sat back with a smug content look at having being able to beat the tax system at its own game. "Ahh, yes interest on loans are non-taxable" the tax official grew pensive on that and I BET he must be thinking to himself on how to plug that loophole I had so cleverly found out.
"I apologize once again sir for this hasn't happened yet in my tenure, can you imagine the repercussions for this, can you imagine what would happen if people get to keep the money they earn, they would go dining out in restaurants, spending on good things, buying new clothes .. Better cars, new houses, the whole idea of people spending money on personal luxuries is so .. so .. so OBSCENE '. god!!!! The possibilities are endless. And then you will have your crime rate, violence, drugs, everything increasing to phenomenal proportions. I shudder to even think of it. He leant towards me, looking right in my eye and asked "Would you get mugged if you had no money" I shook my head solemnly as the simple realization struck me in my face. "Now don't you worry sir, we will look after you very well, we'll see to it that you don't have any money left on you, so there's no question of you getting mugged" he smiled at me. I was at peace, I just got my belief confirmed, that there's always a friend looking out for you somewhere, someplace on this earth. I had just found one of my friends in the tax officer.
"You don't know officer, how much this thing has been bothering me, I couldn't sleep in the nights, even getting nightmares about the dreaded mid night knocks, men in black with dark sun-glasses", "oh that's coz they have blood shot eyes due to lack of sleep, nobody likes graveyard shifts" he interrupted - anyway, I am a relieved man, Officer, Thank you very much for your help" I chimed in effusively.
The officer brought out a small receipt book and turned to his supervisor "Err ..under what head should I collect this tax", the supervisor thought for a moment and said "Put it under the Natural Calamities Tax, we are always having some storms or earthquakes anyway".
My bank balance is down to zero once again, there is a big smile on my face and I sleep well too. I look at the tax receipt time and again, and this inner glow tends to fill me up with bliss. Thank god!!! for the Natural Calamities Tax.
Note: The author is busy nowadays doing the rounds of banks for approval of his fifth loan to pay off the interest on the fourth loan.