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Indians Are Nervous And Confused Over Upcoming Tax Changes


Let's go next to India, where the world's largest democracy tomorrow rolls out an overhaul of the tax system, which has a lot of Indians concerned. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: We've come to one of Delhi's premier markets to gauge reaction to India's new plan to tax goods and services. It's called the Goods and Services Tax. Sanjiv Mehra is the president of the traders association here, and he also runs a toy store in the market.

Mr. Mehra, are the traders here ready for this rollout?

SANJIV MEHRA: No. Actually speaking, no, because there is no clarity as to how it has to be executed. So people mostly are confused right now.

MCCARTHY: Even government officials talk of being super-stressed while citizens blame them for doing little to prepare the public. The GST, as it's called, unifies over a dozen different taxes in India's convoluted tax system. It could be a boon for lawyers. Legal challenges have already sprung up, mostly about tax brackets and how to classify India's countless commodities. The Delhi High Court offers a glimpse into how Byzantine India's tax regime can be. It's ruled that footwear which has no back straps are sandals and not leather slippers, and thus a different tax bracket. And there'll be no more ink-stained ledgers. The whole process of filing returns is online.

MEHRA: This is one of the issues with the retail outlets. You see, most of the retailers, they are not computer-savvy.

MCCARTHY: Tucked in his book shop a few doors up, Anuj Bahri says the angst over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's most ambitious reform yet is overblown.

ANUJ BAHRI: People don't like change, as simple as that, so when change is forced on you it takes time. But you settle down eventually.

MCCARTHY: Easy for him to say. Bahri sells books, and they're exempt from tax. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOMAK'S "FORCE FOR TRUTH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy
Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.