Assam’s Goods and Services Tax authority has asked the Bihu committees across Assam to make all transactions, including payments to artistes, through cheques. If complied with, the artistes would have to pay 18% GST.
Rongali Bihu is a major source of income for singers, musicians, comedians, actors and everyone else associated with the entertainment industry in Assam. Bihutolis, temporary stages, are set up for cultural programmes that start mid-April and end with Bogahi Bidai (Farewell Spring) more than a month later.
Officials said this is not the first time that the Bihu committees have been asked to avoid paying artistes, bands, instrument players and technicians in cash.
“They have been asked to pay in cheques or transfer professional fees digitally on earlier occasions too. There is no reason why the artistes should avoid paying tax by opting for cash,” a government spokesperson said.
But the artistes are not amused.
“This is not a case of one singer or star making a lot of money. Bihu is the only festival that ensures a decent income for artistes, who have to sustain 20-25 families of musicians, technicians and helpers. It will be quite taxing for us if a big amount is deducted as GST after the cheques are deposited in the banks,” singer Bipin Chaodang, representing a group of artistes, told the media on January 11.
The Bihu committees insisted that functions organised during the springtime festival should be GST-exempt.
“The government can collect GST from professional artistes performing at major events but the traditional Bihu stages should be spared, more so as they provide space for folk artistes,” said Kailas Sarma, adviser to one of the oldest Bihu committees in Guwahati.