Southern artists on hunger strike, demand service tax exemption

Chennai, Jan 7 (IANS) The imposition of service tax on actors will induce tax evasion and create black money, said leading actors, directors, theatre owners and others here who are on hunger-strike demanding the tax be scrapped.

Tamil superstar Rajinikanth too joined the day-long protest fast Monday.

A certain section of the showbiz industry, including producers, exhibitors and distributors, has already been exempted from paying the tax.

Now members belonging to various film industry associations are on hunger strike demanding that actors, producers and choreographers too be exempt from 12.36 percent service tax.

"The government is coming out with several schemes to bring out black money. If taxes are increased, then black money would flourish. There should be strong law to punish tax evaders," said Rajinikanth.

Echoing similar view, actor Satyaraj said the government should focus on bringing back the unaccounted money stashed away.

According to actor Radha Ravi, the union finance minister should consider their demand as he knows Tamil and the industry.

Referring to the 2014 general elections, Ravi said: "Only if the government meets our demand now, they can meet us one-and-half-year later."

"There is a common perception that film actors are affluent and lead a well-off life but that may not be the case. There have been times when many companies involved in showbiz industry end up paying Rs.60 crore to Rs.70 crore when the entire turnover is Rs.25 crore," R. Sarathkumar, president of South Indian Film Artistes Association, told NDTV 24X7.

"It is also difficult for small artists to pay because once you enter into an agreement, irrespective of whether the film or the serial is completed, you have to pay the service tax. Our demand is just like producers, exhibitors and theatre-owners, why not the entire industry be exempted from service tax," he added.

Besides Rajinikanth, other leading lights of Tamil movie industry on hunger-strike are - Vijay, Prabhu, Satyaraj, Bhagyaraj, Sarathkumar, Radhikaa Sarathkumar, director K.S. Ravikumar and others.

Screening and shooting of films has been cancelled till evening.

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