Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oppression of the people by officialdom

I am disturbed. I am profoundly disturbed. A news reader of the Straits Times wrote to dispute a Ministry of Finance officer's (a civil servant) claim that charging GST (a Value-Added Tax which was recently raised from 5% to 7%) on a tax item (the Water Conservation Tax) in an Electricity / Utilities bill was normal practice and therefore correct. The letter writer disagreed and backed up his point by citing examples and pointing to the Inland Revenue's website that stated unequivocally that a tax on a tax is wrong. Actually, we don't need IRAS to tell us that. Any right thinking and fair-minded person would have agreed with that principle. The writer, to his credit, cited the example of buying cars in Singapore, where the tax component is huge, to show that taxing tax is wrong. He then appealed to the Government to review the situation, suggesting that such anomalies may also exist elsewhere in the government.

Well, I disagree. I disagree that an appeal should have to be made. What have the people done wrong that an appeal is warranted? It is the people who are being shortchanged. What we, as the people (and consumers) of the country who pay its taxes, no less, should do is to complain to the Consumers' Association, much as one would do when we find ourselves overcharged. Well, you say the Consumers' Association can only go so far because it lacks teeth in effecting change. If the wrong is not righted, an alternative is to commence a class action suite against similar government practices where it may have occurred and may still be happening.

I shudder to think that millions of dollars have been collected wrongly on taxes over taxes over the years. How else is the government giving the short end to its citizens, albeit inadvertently, I wonder?

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