My client, a middle-aged endoscopic surgeon, visited me in my office the other day. “Sridhar, the bank has deducted Rs.5700 tax from the interest paid on my fixed deposits. But they have not yet issued the certificate.” I stared at the balding man in his fifties known for springing in some nasty surprises at the last minute. “Don’t look at me like that, Sridhar. It’s all accounted. I am offering the entire 57000 interest to tax. I am worried about the tax credit for Rs.5700 deducted by the bank.” “I’ll check your 26AS on the net. If there’s a credit for that amount then you need not worry about the certificate.” “Can you please do it now, Sridhar, so that I’ll sleep peacefully tonight?” I logged into the site established my credentials and took out his tax statement. The man had sprung a surprise once again. “Congratulations, Doctor. The bank says that it has deducted Rs.57,000 from you.” “What? 57000? You mean 57 followed by 3 zeroes?” “57000 has been written that way from time immemorial.” The Doctor stood up and started to dance. “57000? You see that’s a windfall. My tax bill this time is less than forty grand. I need not have to pay anything and there will be a neat refund as well.” “Not so fast…” “For State Bank it’s just one more zero; and for me it’s sheer happiness.” “Doctor, the statement shows that Rs. 57000 tax has been deducted on an interest of Rs.570000 paid to you.” “What do you mean?” “If you want to enjoy the wrong tax credit of Rs.57000 you will have to offer Rs.570000 as your interest income. And pay another Rs.171000 as tax.” “How come?” “Simple Doctor. When you rely on the banks tax deduction figure the Department will rely on the interest figure given by the bank.” “Oh My God!” “Not only that, Doctor. If you got an interest of Rs.5,70,000 your total deposit should be in the range of Rs.60 lakhs. You should explain how you got that much money. Or else..” “Or else..” “Or else pay another Rs.18 lakhs as tax on the hitherto undisclosed income, not counting on the interest and penalty.” “OH MY GOD! WHAT SHOULD I DO NOW?” “Go to your bank. Tell them there is a mistake in the statement. Tell them that the tax credit due to you is only Rs.5700/- Get a certificate from them to that effect. And also a letter explaining the mistake committed by them. If there are any questions tomorrow we will have some solid evidence.” It took more than thirty minutes to make him understand that in tax matters as in life long-term peace is much more important than short-term pleasures. One of my acquaintances was a Master Carpenter. A big industrialist liked his work so much that he gave his outhouse for him rent-free. The carpenter led a happy life. He ate simple food, worked happily for about eight hours a day, spent quality time with his family even while doing his work, and earned enough money to support his simple life style. The only conveyance he owned was a dilapidated bicycle. That was the equivalent of a ‘family car’. He would take his family – his wife and two kids – in his cycle for the week-end movies. The Carpenter on the advice of his friend bought a lottery ticket and forgot about it soon. When the results of the draw came a month later he took out his ticket and checked it with the results published. He had won the bumper prize of Rupees One Crore. His life turned upside down after that. He and his wife spent sleepless nights planning on how to spend the money. He was shocked when he got only Rupees Sixty lakhs because there was tax deduction and other deductions like commission and service charges. He bought a house and a car. (Those days they were very cheap) And on the advice of one of his friends (he had many friends now) he started a finance company and lost almost all the money. Then he recovered a part of his money and started a furniture shop. He was in a Rotary Club while his wife was active in a ladies club. One day when I met him in a meeting he held my hands and told me, “Sridhar Sir, I wish I had not won that damn lottery. We were very happy those days. Now I hardly get to see my wife. I am not happy with what I do for a living. "I have a dozen hangers on but no real friend. Do you know I am in debt now? And I am struggling to pay my monthly interest? All thanks to the wasteful life-style.” I uttered something appropriate and moved away from him. In a way the Doctor was more fortunate than the carpenter. When he was about to get a windfall an accountant was there to warn him of the consequences. Of course it was a clear tax matter and any accountant could have handled that brief. But with the carpenter it was more complex. But if somebody had told him on the day he won the prize – that the bounty was not an unmixed blessing and that it came with a price tag, well he could have been more careful. If somebody had cautioned him about the dangers of big money he would not have even bought the ticket at all. Neither would he have longed for his pre-lottery life. We are quite adept in confusing God Himself. We pray to him, “Give me loads and loads of money and make me happy.” Or, “Make me highly powerful; only then will I be peaceful.” That’s like praying “Give me lots and lots of sugar and cure me of my diabetes.” Or, “Bless me with eternal hunger so that I can be slim” God brushes away these idiotic prayers with an indulgent smile. But at times he wants to warn people and sends an accountant to do that. At other times He really wants to show to the man how foolish his prayer is. He simply grants it like he did for the Master Carpenter.