For a ‘chai’ priced at Dh1 previously, for example, an additional .05 fils is taxed, making it Dh1.05. But many consumers reported they don’t get the full 45 fils change when they pay Dh1.50. Image Credit: Prasad Nair/Gulf News

It happened again today. I bought my lunch at an international hypermarket — I shall not say where.

The cost was Dh15.30 and I gave the cashier Dh16.

She gave me 50 fils in change. Where, I wondered, did the other 20 fils go? I am but a single stalk of wheat, you may think. Actually, I am an integral part of a giant field of wheat, at 20 fils per transaction.

Multiply 20 fils by 50,000 such transactions seven days a week across all the stores in the UAE. That’s an awful lot of wheat stalks.

A veritable “field of gold”, as Sting might sing.

To put it another way, that’s Dh3.6 million per year.

What is the point of this little rant? It is all to do with boiled frogs. If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, the frog will jump out.

If you put a frog into a pot of cold water, and very slowly turn up the temperature, the frog will not jump out.

It adapts to the increasingly unfriendly environment, until it becomes a not-so-jumpy Rana Temporaria.

We are all at the mercy of the unseen hands on the temperature control. Whether it is rounding up and not giving us the correct change (in which case the shop should round down if they don’t have the coins) or being charged a little more VAT than is accurate.

Or being charged VAT by unregistered businesses.

Personally, I have no interest in making charitable donations to a global supermarket giant, nor to a restaurant that charges VAT on top of their supposedly discretionary service charge.

Or the many other ways, that less scrupulous people than you and I, have devised to swipe our hard-earned dirhams.

One little piece at a time, so we do not notice.

What to do?

Get educated, for a start.

Know what the rules for charging VAT are. Then you can debate based on facts. You will certainly know more then the outlet manager. These decisions are made at the head office.

Make a noise. Rattle and Hum. You too have a voice.

Then, upload a VAT calculator phone app, so you can work out the correct VAT at point-of-sale in an instant.

Do not accept “rounding up”. If the cashier cannot give you exact change, or close to it, make them “round down”. It is your money. Moreover, all the other wheat stalks in the line behind you will thank you for it, and they will demand the same.

Always ask for a VAT invoice, which shows a Tax Registration Number (TRN) whenever you are being charged VAT.

Chances are, the seller may not be registered. Which, by the way, is punishable by fine and imprisonment.

Tax, like death, is inevitable. Make sure you are not paying any more than you are legally obliged to pay, because some individual or global organisation thinks they can get away with it.

Educate yourself. Resist and stand your ground.

Steve Ashby is the founder of Businessmentals.