Professionalism comes at a price.
That price was earlier 15% and now its 18%. But not for everyone. Many photographers (and most free lancers) in India who make pots of money (read as upwards of 20-25 Lakhs a year) shy away from registering themselves as an organisation or paying / charging Service tax. When it comes to showing off their expensive gadgets, or latest travel stories on instagram, or their colourful Nehru jackets with pointy shoes and gelled hair, they are all ahead of the game and then ask them about the taxation, and everyone starts cutting a sorry face. Excuses piled in a stack. "Been thinking about it" ... "My expenses are too many anyway" ... "Never thought about it in detail" ... "I am not that (50L+) big yet, I am small fish" ... "If one guy doesn't pay, what's the big deal" ... "Look at Ambani Adani" ....there is a full list you can hear when you ask them about their Stories. But there will always be such people in every part of the world who are in it for the quick buck. They buy expensive cameras and are suddenly candid photographers, then they will sell it all to buy a turn table and voila! they are a DJ. I guess their flirtation with their new 'profession' is so short lived that it ends before you can spell T A X. But what about you as a client. Many of you come to us, seeking the best in the world/India/Bangalore. You seek quality and professionalism. You seek (years of) experience to handle any situation. You seek art and expertise. You seek a professional team ticking like clockwork. And then most of you have that awkward "umm can you bill us without the tax please" . Ok you said please... I get it. It should be my cue to politely accept the wad of cash and stuff it in a cloth bag and wait for Modi to demonetise it? Or perhaps keep spending it on trivial things like Patanajali life time supply of hair oil, because none of it can go to our banks, unless you work with a rookie. Would you ask your restaurant to 'please bill without tax'. Would you expect your doctor to not used a certified syringe or medicine? Or just use something for you child which is cheaper, so as you don't get a pakka bill? At this point the marwari in you would say... "Boss if you are so morally upright then why not add gst within your price and give to client?" Well I can do that surely, but then my competitiveness takes a beating. Allow me to demonstrate - if the wedding bill for all service is 100,000 then today the GST would equate to 18,000. Sometimes 18,000 is a margin big enough for couples to choose a photographer over the other. Someone who is not charging GST can throw in a free air travel and a photobook and still be cheaper than my invoice amount with GST. Because 18% is not the only difference. The guy who is collecting cash and not registering it as income is also not paying income tax on it. So now we are looking at a 40-50% difference with/without all taxes. You see now... that now someone who started last year and quotes 50,000 for a full wedding is earning the exact same money as a 'professional' who has been doing it for years and charges 100,000 for the same. At this point I have to clarify that I have no bones to pick with people who just got in and are barely being able to make ends meet. Its the seasoned pros who choose to not be on the radar who are the problem. For you as a client wouldn't it be of merit to seek a really professional set-up? Where the company/individual is registered. Where they pay tax. Where you are guaranteed that should the quality suffer, this person/brand cannot afford to lose face. And if you want to save that 18% and look away this time. Then you have no right to crib about "Look at where this country is headed"... "Look at these people"... "Look at the corruption" ... "People have no respect and regard for the country". You are a part of the black money market and you are in effect working against this country's interests. My personal view is that the taxation is too high for this service. It should be 10% so more people would be willing to pay it. But it is what it is just now. My view really is in agreement with the Artha Kranti principle to remove all taxes and just keep a bank transaction tax of 2% on everything. But till we see a smart govt seeing the merit of it, it is what it is. As a photographer what can I do to counter this? Well for one I break up my invoice sometimes for costs and service fees. So clients pay the costs directly for travel, stay, rentals, and freelancer's wages. So I take all that away from my service bill. If that's even 30-40% less than the overall bill value that's a significant relief for most. And its completely ethical and legal. If you have read this rant this far then let me take the opportunity to thank all the families and couples who have paid service tax to me earlier and will be willing to pay GST to me when I bill it later this year. I also thank all professionals (not just photographers) who encourage more people to pay ST/gst. This month I paid over 100,000 only as service tax submissions for the quarter. It pinches. But it is the right way to do things. It is the only way to do things. They will all sleep well tonight and every night to come. They have all chosen to part with more money so they can fulfil their duty as a citizen. They will all feel proud to have stuck to the right when most were not really for it, but continued to stick to their principles anyway. We stay, we fight, we spar and make room for tomorrow, even at the cost of anguish and temporary discomfort. I will continue to do that whenever I can. Kyunki meri maa ne mujhe yehi sikhaya hai.