The government may have billed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as a game-changer, but many employees are worried about how this tax will change the benefits game for them. GST has subsumed most indirect taxes such as VAT, service tax, octroi, luxury tax, special additional duty (SAD) and central sales tax levied by Centre and states.
The switchover puts goods and services, barring a few such as petroleum and alcohol, under a four-tier tax structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28% besides applicable cess.
But how does the GST rollout actually affect employees?
In a study on employer-employee transactions under the new tax regime, consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said GST would be payable if the cash value of gifts provided to an employee during a financial year exceeds Rs 50,000. The term ‘gift’ has not been clarified under GST law. However, it is said to be a sum “made without consideration, is voluntary and is made occasionally”.
But what about the other perks and benefits that employees receive? We give you the lowdown on what will come under the GST ambit and what won’t:
Housing: GST will not be applicable if free housing for the employee is mentioned in the terms of the contract between the employer and employee and is a part of the cost-to-company (C2C).
Meals: There isn’t such thing as a free lunch, but top companies often offer their employees meals at a subsidised rate. GST will not be applicable if the caterer supplies food directly to employees, and an invoice (subsidised) is raised to the company. However, this needs an agreement to this effect to be signed between the company and the caterer.
Cab service: It’s common to provide cab pick-ups-and-drop offs or at least drops if employees work late shifts. However, this will also invite GST under the new regime. Cab facility is a related party transaction and the employee is not eligible to claim input tax credit.
Vehicles: Cars for official and personal use are often given to senior staff. Employers will have no GST liability in this case as it is not considered a “supply” under the new tax regime. Cars leased by the company from a dealer and given to employees will also be exempt from GST.
Garage Sale: If your company is selling off old laptops at throwaway prices, think twice before you pick one up. The sale of used laptops /printers/office supplies comes under the ambit of GST. “Used laptops are given by the company to employees on FoC (Full Operational Capability) basis or at subsidized value. Such transactions would be treated as supply and accordingly, liable to GST,” the PwC analysis said.
Health check-ups: Corporates often provide an annual health checkup facility to employees, but this will not have any GST liability since there is no underlying “supply” per se by the company.
Other benefits: Perks that are part of the offer letter such as cash allowance given to staff on successful reference (up to Rs 50,000), mobile handsets, long service awards, employee welfare schemes, off-sites/town halls, relocation benefits, temporary accommodation and free gym services will be out of GST net.
Some things may be clear, but many remain ambiguous at this stage. Over the year, HR departments will need to work with employees and the higher management to figure out how to deal with this evolving complex reality.
Keep more of your money in your pocket by using various tax saving strategies during the year. Find expert advice here.
Jobs may have been a long-term proposition once, but the modern workplace has upended that. Be it corporate changes, poor financial performance or changing work practices, jobs and consequently careers have come under the chopping block. For instance, India’s multibillion-dollar information technology industry is bracing for challenging times with the onset of automation and visa rule changes in a key market like the US. Downsizing has been rampant this year, with both startups and corporates giving staff pink slips.
Anne Kreamer, author of Risk/Reward, which deals with navigating the chaotic work climate, says: “There is zero loyalty or security.” Clearly, the only certainty in the working world is uncertainty.
But there’s no need to despair if your Plan A didn’t work. After all, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet. All you need to do is have a back-up plan handy. We tell you how you can keep working on Plan B so that it’s ready to go at all times.
Update your resume and social media
Rejigging your resume seems like a waste of time when you’re in a job that you’re enjoying, but crisis has a habit of sneaking up on you and it’s important to be prepared. Make things easier on yourself by updating your accomplishments and skills every quarter. A “brag” folder in your inbox is perfect for storing super client/boss feedback for when you may need it. Repost the updated CV on job sites and also make relevant changes on social media sites.
Keep working on your network
Everyone knows that the key to career success lies in networking. It doesn’t do to become complacent if you’re not in the market for a job; a superb network is a dealmaker for Plan B. Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Stanford professor of organizational behaviour, in his ebook writes that networking is “crucial for getting things accomplished”. Participate in shared activities at the workplace, sign up for networking meets and attend school reunions. Work on expanding your network organically and ensure that it isn’t inbred.
Hone your existing skills
It’s your existing skill set that got you your current job, so keep refining it. Your work, like you, continues to evolve and your skills need to keep pace. If you’re into IT, crack into the next set of applications that no one knows about. If you’re a fitness trainer, get a new certification. Don’t forget to polish your soft skills, be it communication, teamwork, adaptability or conflict resolution. Think of yourself as an ongoing project and keep trying to better yourself.
Be open to new things
You may be an architect, but if your main interest is comedy writing, there’s no reason why you should not pursue it on the side. Keep yourself open to new experiences – hobbies, side projects, learning new skills or pursuing online courses – to stay agile during a period of uncertainty. Kreamer writes: “You are going to be in a much better position if you have broadened your network, if you have relationships in a variety of fields, if you’ve done a bunch of things and failed at them. Then you have resiliency.”
Make a list of dream companies
Even if you are extremely happy in your current job, it’s never a good idea to settle. Aspiring for more is a sure-shot way to progress and grow. Compiling a list of dream companies with their websites, any contacts you have there and links to their jobs pages is a great idea. It gives you somewhere to get started – a quality somewhere – in case you need to action Plan B. Revisit your spreadsheet once in a while to know if any interesting openings are available.
Collect all essential data
In these times, layoffs often involve people being asked to go – going so far as to be told to vacate the premises the same day. Stay on top of your data – work samples, files, documents, photos – and all the things that can further your career. Back up all that you’re allowed to by your employment policies on to a personal hard disk every quarter.
Apart from these tips, experts suggest having a ready-to-send email template. You can, after a few modifications, shoot it off to friends and people in your network in case of an emergency.
Don’t give up if Plan A didn’t pan out; turn your focus to Plan B. If you need help tweaking your resume or reaching out to potential employers, get professional help here.
Paid or unpaid, an internship is a foot in the door towards a real job after you graduate. Apart from looking great on your resume, an internship gives you the chance to gain new skills, network and make connections, establish relationships with mentors, give you a good introduction to the industry’s etiquette and culture, and an opportunity to “test drive” your career.
But the current shifting economy and evolving work environment mean internships aren’t easy to land.
Ellen Gordon Reeves, author of Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? Finding, Landing and Keeping Your First Real Job, believes that the pressure “is on and competition is fierce.”
This makes it extremely important to network strategically. Reeves’ has a bit of advice: “Stop sending your resumes into cyberspace. It’s a black hole.”
Apart from this, we suggest you try this seven-step action plan for landing a great summer internship.
1. Look in all the right places
If you’re looking only at job search sites, you aren’t doing enough. Many companies and industries often have their own job boards and postings, so check those for positions that don’t appear on job sites. University and college professors could also be in the know of industry-specific internship hotspots. Your web of relationships is an extremely powerful tool and can help you land your dream internship. So wield it.
Tip: Tap your parents’ network – friends, colleagues and others. They could help you find just the right internship.
2. Join a career-specific social networking site
Social networking sites aren’t all play, no work. Even if you don’t have any experience to brag about! After all, the people you need to impress are there, aren’t they? Create a profile and showcase the varied things you have done – that volunteering stint with street children, the thesis topic you worked on, the extra work you took on at college. It may not seem like much, but employers are sure to appreciate the effort to network.
Tip: A little bit of embellishment is fine, but don’t bluff. Helping out at a blood bank is different from saving lives.
3. Never copy-paste a template cover letter
It may be the first time that you’re sending out an internship request, but desist from using a template cover letter. Any potential employer who’s seen a few resumes can tell it’s a template. Draw inspiration from a well-written cover letter, but use it only as a guide to pen a letter that shows your style and is tailored to the company.
Tip: Your cover letter should sell your skills, experience and abilities instead of emphasising things that are lacking.
4. Let your resume set you apart
Every potential employer or recruiter has seen thousands of resumes, so make sure that yours stands out. Creative resumes – be it an amazing infographic or a standout piece of art – have much more potential of attracting an employer’s eye and getting you an internship offer.
Tip: Creativity is fine, but don’t forget to list down your achievements and skills on the resume.
5. Clean up your online persona
You can get away with showing off your entire life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but that’s fine only when you’re a student. If you’re looking for a step up into the professional world, it’s time to clean up your online image. Remove all photos, tweets or posts that are remotely controversial. Instead, show off what a potential employer would like to read – blog posts, interesting articles and innovative ideas.
Tip: Impress a potential employer by showing, not telling. Your own blog could be the perfect way to do this.
6. Work on acing the interview
Every employer knows that good resume or not, an undergraduate is lacking in accomplishments and work history. That’s why the interview is extremely important. Carol Christen, co-author of What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens, a career guide for young people, believes young people are going to be hired “more often on personality traits than on knowledge or skills”. She says it take as many as nine interviews for students to get comfortable so practise.
Tip: If college career counsellors aren’t open to mock interviews, consider asking relatives or friends.
7.It’s not about the money, honey
Ryan Kahn, career coach and author of Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad, believes that finding an internship can be worth every undergraduate’s while. “I am huge advocate for unpaid internships. They’re a great way to test out an industry. Just for a couple of days a week, you can gain the experience to decide whether you want to spend the rest of your career in that field,” he said in an interview.
Tip: Think of your internship as a stepping stone to success. At this point in life, the money doesn’t matter as much as connections and experience.
Keep in mind that companies devoting time and resources to finding, selecting and training interns look for a return on their investment. It may be in the present or it might accrue in the future, but there’s no denying the benefits that a great internship can bring you.
Work- Life balance sounds like an oxymoron. For busy professionals, especially for women, focusing on career as well as having a great personal life seems to be impossible. Can this be a reality?
We are all familiar with the routine, whether you’re a CEO or just starting your career: You wake up early, work long hours as hard as you can to get everything done, then wrap up in record time and race back home to start all over again at your “second job” at home. The speed and intensity, let alone the quality of your work, can feel impossible to sustain.
Well, the good news is that it’s quite achievable. The question is what is that you want to achieve?
Balance is about prioritizing the important elements of your life, with a sense of peace and confidence, that you’re making the right decisions for yourself, your career, and the people that matter most in your life. Balance is about more than checking off the “To Do” list. It’s about sustaining a healthy and a happy way of life.
The problem is that there is always too much to do. If you take on new responsibilities at work that come from a promotion, an exciting opportunity, or an important project, you risk personal time. On the other hand if you want to give that extra time to your home or family members, you risk the opportunities at work.
This dilemma will always be there. As a coach, I always say that the situation does not change, our approach to the situation can be changed.
What is required of you are three things – a belief it can be done, a fresh perspective, and a few good, practical ideas for how to do it. And all three are interlinked.
If you believe that it can be done, you start from a positive axis and your thinking pattern starts working backward with the end result as a goal. As a process, you start prioritizing things which you really want, things which hold maximum meaning for you. You learn to let go of rest and not with a heavy heart but with peace and contentment. If you have ever attempted a MCQ paper and have applied process of elimination, you would understand what this means.
A fresh perspective requires you to break from the shackles of stereotypes created and established by the patriarchal society. These stereotypes are deeply embedded in our culture, in our surroundings and in us. Be aware of these stereotypes. A good mother or a good wife is not subject to the norms of society but to your own value and belief system. If you were given a chance and power to rewrite the gender roles, would you write the same or would you make some changes. Then go ahead and make your own roles and rules.
Not everything needs to be invented or discovered. Few things can be inspired from what’s already happening around us. Surround yourself with colleagues and friend who are positive in their outlook and encouraging as well and who have adapted smart ways to attain the magical balance. They could be planning better or would have used delegation more effectively or would have influenced and trained their family members to play a more active role at personal front thus easing out their pressure.
When you want a change, you need to suspend apprehensions and try out things till you are successful. Giving up mid-way or disbelief definitely does not help. So, what’s the harm in trying things differently?
Warning: When you change things about yourself, your stakeholders may get confused, may feel you have gone crazy or in some extreme cases even believe that some evil forces have been working on you. This is common. People adapt to change if they see it consistently.
They call us ‘entitled’, ‘lazy’ and ‘always wanting their way’
For Millennials and Generation Z, the labels are here to stay
Forget the labels for a moment and just consider this
We are asking for something that’s all too easy to miss
So here’s to reflecting on how to empower youth today.
Our planet is in peril, glaciers melting every day
Guns selling freely, but nothing in the food tray
Refugees swimming to a haven, no shore anywhere
A wall came down in Berlin, another going up elsewhere
For being young today, there’s a huge price to pay.
So what can you do for us, to unfetter us today?
Just Stop, Reflect, Think before you tweet everyday
If you can’t make things better, at least allow status quo
Till we can claim our heritage, our own boats to row
Give a little, bend a little, and let us have our say.
This collection of limericks is a winner of the Social Space Magazine’s Youth Empowerment contest. Social Space is published by the Lien Center for Social Innovation, Singapore Management University.
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