Artist Jogen Chowdhury, who curated Rashtrapati Bhavan’s art collection and is a member of a committee that decides on statues and paintings in Parliament, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the GST Council seeking exemption for art under GST. Chowdhury, who is a Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP and one of the biggest names in contemporary Indian art, wrote that it was shameful artists who receive no benefits from the government have been reduced to the category of a businessmen or traders.
Original works of art have been taxed at 12 per cent in the GST law and Chowdhury, who is also planning to raise the matter in the Rajya Sabha, said it neither does justice to creativity nor seems to take into account the fact that this amounts to double taxation as artists are already paying income tax on the sale of their work.
“Given that the overall turnover of the total art market would not even cross Rs 500 crore, it hardly qualifies as a commodity in today’s economy…. We, already paying our income tax as honest citizens, demand to be exempted from any form registration or payment of GST,” reads the letter that several artists have signed.
An art work of Chowdhury is estimated to cost Rs 8-10 lakh. A few years back, one of his paintings done during his stint at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the 1970s sold for Rs 3 crore at an international auction. According to publicity material prepared by the government on GST: “Sale of goods or services even as a vocation is a supply under GST.”
Chowdhury said: “It is unfortunate that the government thinks that my creation is just one of many ‘goods’. No other creative activity has been thus taxed. Also most of the expensive paintings sold in auctions are of dead artists — prices go up when an artist dies because then his or her work becomes finite, there is nothing new being created. Living artists at the most make a Rs 50-100 crore market. To be burdened with GST on top of that is a blow. How will we even compete with China, where the government proactively encourages art, if we are to shackle artists like this.”
Artists, he explained, earn from their work only the first time they sell it. Subsequently, the profits go to collectors and auction houses.
Actor Dev, who is a Trinamool Congress MP, has written to Jaitley asking for regional films to be brought under the lowest GST slab of 5 per cent, instead of 18 per cent, where it currently is.