October 5, 2017
Chitra, my wife, asked me a few days ago, “what are you watching in the TV?” I said, “I am watching the Finance Minister ShriArunJaitley in ET Now. He and the Revenue Secretary are speaking at a Press Conference after the GST Council met in Hyderabad on 9 Sep 17 and, telling the world, what concessions in GST has the Council, after three days of deliberations sanctioned.”
“What about the case you took up with the GST Council for removing the GST for elderly people residing in Retirement Communities for getting care, services and for their food?” Chitra asked. “Not considered in the Council Meeting or considered and rejected,” I replied. “Any hope?” she asked. “God and the FM know,” I said
Both of us are also senior citizens. But the irony is that though our Company has been the pioneer in setting up retirement communities across many cities in India for the past 13 years, we live in an apartment, since I am still working at my young age of 68 years!
And for services and care that we provide for the elderly people, many of who are wheel chair dependent and suffer from age related health issues like Parkinson, Dementia, Stroke, Alzheimer, acute Arthritis, Osteoporosis etc., they are to pay GST – 18% for services and care and 12% for food. Sadly, the GST for food that they get since they are not in a condition to cook, is dependent on the turn over of our company – 5% up to Rs 75 lacs and 12% if the turnover is more than Rs 75 lacs. Pray, why should the GST to be paid for food by the elderly be dependent on the Company’s turn over?
“So how much additional amount the senior citizens have to pay?” asked Chitra. “On an average about Rs 1000/- per head or Rs 2000/- for a couple per month,” I said. “In fact with advancing age, they can save this money for care expenses at later stages of life.”
With the implementation of GST, the senior citizens or the elderly segment of our population, many of whom are disabled due to advancing age or other wise, are facing additional financial burden. Already, senior citizens do not get any concession for taxes that they pay except for Income Tax, which is not much. They are to pay income tax, even for the savings out of the Fixed Deposits, if the interest received exceeds the limit laid down by the government. They get no concession for registration charges and Stamp Duty for the dwelling they live in or for the property/water tax that they have to pay every month. There is no concession in Capital Gains Tax if they sell their property to meet medical expenses and decide to live in a rented dwelling.
In an environment, where the cost of care increases with age and the interest rates are witnessing a downward spiral, the savings that they get from fixed deposits is dwindling. Due to longevity, which is primarily due to access to better health care, a person who retires at the age of 60 and lives up to say 85 years of age, will need to factor in 25 years of life after retirement. The saving that he or she did for himself and for the spouse after fulfilling the family commitments, is grossly inadequate since the value of money gets eroded with the passing of each day. Not every one is fortunate to get pension, which gets adjusted for inflation.
Chitra said, “we are not paying GST for Eashwari who helps us with house keeping or Pachai who is a part time cook?” “We are not required to pay GST for our housekeeping helper or part time or full time cook or caregiver or part time gardener or security staff or for the staff employed for running of Reverse Osmosis Plant or Sewage Treatment Block in the apartment block. But the moment we live in a Senior Care Centre or in a Retirement Community, we have to pay GST,” I replied.
“Not fair,” said Chitra! But she should know that with advancing age, the elderly population in India is at the receiving end and, none seem to care for them.
“It is the Karma of all senior citizens whose children are not living with them and who are forced to live in a retirement community to get basic care, food and services,” I said.
“Wish we were destitute and lived in an old age home without any worries” retorted Chitra. She is right, as always!
AUTHOR : Colonel (Veteran) A Sridharan, Managing Director , Covai Property Centre
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own