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Car curse on Bachchans

New Delhi, Jan. 8: Winning a tax battle over his KBC payments was easy for Amitabh Bachchan last week, but the Bollywood car curse has felled him.

Big B and son Abhishek today lost a case at the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal over their Versa, joining a string of filmstars brought to grief over car taxes and duties in recent months.

The tribunal upheld an income-tax department claim that the Bachchans should be taxed for the car as they had received it from Maruti as part of their professional fees for endorsing the model.

Father and son had endorsed the Versa in the year 2000 for Rs 4.02 crore, on which they paid tax. But they never declared the car as part of the fees, which an audit said they should have done.

The income-tax department, unable to put a date to the receipt of the car, decided to calculate the 30 per cent tax on its 2001-02 value, Rs 6.34 lakh. It said it had assessed the value on the basis of the car’s insurance papers.

At the tribunal — the highest court of appeal in personal tax cases — the Bachchans argued that a car is said to be received only on the date of registration, and where registration has not been done the receiver is not deemed to be the owner. The tribunal rejected the technical point.

Recently, fellow actors such as Sushmita Sen, Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt rode into tax trouble over their cars, mostly imported SUVs.

But Kaun Banega Crorepati, which had earlier helped Amitabh ride out a financial crisis, continued to be lucky for him. The tribunal last week accepted the actor’s argument that the government cannot tax his entire income of Rs 51 crore from the TV game show.

Bachchan said Section 80RR of the Income Tax Act made it clear that 30 per cent of the earnings was not taxable since he was an artiste. Section 80RR provides the relief to an Indian artiste earning foreign exchange if he brings the money into India.

The income-tax department had argued that Amitabh was the anchor and therefore not an artiste in the show. Besides, it said, the money should be physically earned abroad, whereas Amitabh was paid by foreign company E-Entertainment Ltd for a show based in India.

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