Hotels

Hotel fined after celebrity tweet exposes illegal charge on bananas

An actor’s tweet revealing the exorbitant cost of bananas at a Marriott hotel has inadvertently exposed the property of illegally charging GST.

In a video posted on Twitter, actor Rahul Bose revealed he was charged around $9 for two bananas (Indian Rupees 442.50), including tax, while staying at JW Marriott hotel in Chandigarh, India.

This inadvertently exposed the hotel for illegally charging GST on a tax-free product. As it turns out, under Indian law, bananas and fresh fruit fall under that category.

Prompted by the release of the tweet – which has been liked more than 21 thousand times and retweeted nearly 6,000 times at time of publishing – JW Marriott is currently under investigation.

“You have to see this to believe it. Who said fruit wasn’t harmful to your existence? Ask the wonderful folks at @JWMarriottChd”, Bose wrote in his tweet.

JW Marriott was slapped with a penalty of $525 (Rs 25,000) for the $1.42 (Rs 67.5) tax for two bananas, but the matter has prompted a further probe by tax authorities.

Chandigarh deputy commissioner and Excise and Taxation commissioner Mandip Singh Brar last week ordered an investigation into the matter and sought a reply from JW Marriott as to why GST had been applied on a tax-free product.

“Taking cognisance of the video and bill posted by the actor, I have ordered an investigation. I have directed Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner (AETC) Rajeev Chaudhary to conduct a thorough probe on how the hotel had charged GST on fresh fruits. Strict action will be taken if found guilty,” Brar said, as reported by The Indian Express.

According to Excise department authorities, the case – accepted until proven otherwise – is also in violation of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

AETC Chaudhary said that all relevant records had been seized.

“The question here is that fresh fruits are tax-free items, whatever the case may be, and ‘fruit platter’ is a taxable item. But the actor has been given fresh fruits and tax has been charged on it so we are investigating all angles.

“We are even probing whether relevant tax is being deposited regularly with the excise and taxation department or not,” Chaudhary told Business Today India.

The hotel was reportedly given until Saturday to file a reply.

“We have also called them for a personal hearing before giving out a decision. The hearing will take place before a judicial officer,” Chaudhary said.

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