"I propose to expand the tax base of capital gains to include certain works of art.” Thus spake the Zarathustra-like Palaniyappan Chidambaram while presenting the annual Union Budget in Parliament. It seems that the Finance Minister has caught on to the rather philistine-but-practical practice of more and more people buying and selling works of art to make some money on the side rather than to purely take aesthetic delight in. So the next time you spend some good money on a Raza or a Souza or that nice landscape by that artistic niece of yours, know that the FM has an inkling why you are really buying the painting: to make some better money.
Although Mr Chidambaram has left the matter at that one cryptic line, one can guess that art buyers will have to pay a capital tax on their lovely capital. This is in addition to the income tax that they will have to pay after making a nice income from an artistic transaction.
So does this mean that Mammon has finally entered the wonderful world of art? That, for better or worse, had occurred long before Mr Chidambaram became aware of the existence of artful dodgers. But does the latest move mean works of art — whether one values a painting for its intrinsic worth or for being a modern substitute for gold jewellery — will become more expensive? It seems so. Which could be good news for our artists. Although the baroque master in Mr Chidambaram did mention something about “certain” works of art. Watch out for the growing demand in kitsch over the next few months.