Tax Relief

Pandemic-hit vacationer bus operators pin hopes on tax relief case

Having been flooded with queries from even far away places on hearing of his offer to sell his fleet of tourist buses for as low as ₹45 per kg, Royson Joseph, the proprietor of city-based Royal Tours, says most tourist bus operators in the State are facing a similar predicament.

Once the owner of 20 buses, he had to sell off 10 buses following the pandemic situation. “Only two of the 10 buses left are operating the few tours that come calling. I hope the buses – each of which weighs over 10 tonnes (10,000 kg) and are put up for sale fetch the expected price of approximately ₹5 lakh, based on the per-kg rate I have sought. They have a market price of around ₹8 lakh. Only a few people who enquired were aware that each bus weighs upwards of 10 tonnes. Still, there seem to be a handful of potential buyers,” he said.

“Bus operators like me have invested substantially in their upkeep and mandatory payments, which include a hefty quarterly tax of approximately ₹40,000. The government has shown no leniency on that front, even though most tourist buses operated for just a few dozen days last year,” he added.

The Contract Carriage Operators Association (CCOA-Kerala) is pinning hopes on a case it had filed, seeking lowering of the tax structure. In addition, an expert committee had suggested slashing tax by 30%, to bring interim relief to bus operators, crew members and others who depend on the sector.

Referring to the pitiable plight of bus operators, State vice president of CCOA V. Ajayan said many had to sell tires of buses to eke out a living. “There are others who sold entire buses as scrap. The government did not even invite us for talks, even though we held a hunger strike before the State Secretariat. Most bus operators have accrued 25% fine for the tax that is due for the July-December period.”

“The KSRTC operating tour services has added to our woes. The condition of crew members is too bad. They are unable to avail of welfare board funds since many of them defaulted in paying their dues,” he said.

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