Just 45 days before India’s date with its first Formula One race, the government is locked in a tussle with the organizers over customs duties that threatens to derail the mega event.
The sticking point is the customs department’s insistence that the organizers of the Formula One Indian Grand Prix pay duty upfront on all equipment coming into the country for the race. While no valuation has ever been done on F1 equipment, it is estimated that the duty on them could come to around Rs 600 crore or more.
The organizers, Jaypee Sports India (JPSI), have been asking for declaration of a custom bonded area, as is the practice worldwide, which would enable the F1 cargo to land and immediately be taken to the track where everything is assembled and dis-assembled, and then flown out of the country after the event. This is done on the premise that nothing is being imported into or exported out of the country, thus avoiding custom duty.
For instance, during the Singapore Grand Prix, the country’s customs department allows the temporary import of all cars and equipment for the main and support races. This enables the goods to be imported into Singapore without payment of duty or Goods & Services Tax (GST), with the condition that these goods would be re-exported after the event.
However, the Indian government, bent on classifying Formula One as entertainment and not sport, has not extended any such help, the organizers say.
As a result, JPSI might have to pay customs duty on the cargo that lands in India. With no known estimates of the F1 paddock, JPSI could be coughing up Rs 600 crore or more to allow the cargo to land in India for the race. After a deduction of 2%, the remaining amount will be returned to JPSI.
JPSI has over the past few months been writing letters and meeting government officials in an effort to get all approvals in place for the race.