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I&B ministry supports actors against service tax

Mumbai: The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry said Friday it would support the film fraternity`s protest against the government`s decision to levy service tax on actors.

"We are with the industry and will support them entirely," I&B secretary Uday Kumar Verma told reporters in Mumbai.

"We are in the process of speaking to the finance ministry (which has levied the tax) and will request them to reconsider the decision. We shall also support the fraternity in their demand to roll back the tax," he added.

However, Verma said that since the I&B ministry has no control over the taxation process, he could not promise if the tax would be rolled back or reduced.

A service tax of 12.36 percent was levied on actors last year. Though producers, distributors and exhibitors were kept out of the tax ambit, actors, directors, photographers and choreographers were included.

Bollywood is also likely to call for a strike to protest against the decision.

"We will decide if we have to call for a strike. It`s not our choice, we are compelled to do so," Mukesh Bhatt, president of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India said earlier this week.

The film fraternity unanimously condemned the move stating that this would be an indirect tax adding to their income tax. Producers believe that they will have to bear the brunt of the tax.

The Indian film industry is celebrating its centenary this year.

Down south, leading actors, directors and theatre owners went on a hunger-strike Jan 7 in Chennai demanding that the service tax be scrapped. Tamil superstar Rajinikanth had joined the day-long protest.