Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 10 News List

SARS fears add to the growing trend of online tax filing

SECURE FILING Of all the viruses that your computer may acquire through the Internet, there is one prominent disease you need not fear

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Benjamin Franklin said that only two things in life were certain: death and taxes. In Taiwan, people are hoping to avoid the first, in the form of the deadly SARS virus, by paying the second online.

Nearly 70,000 taxpayers have logged on to the Internet to file their income tax reports in the first week of the tax month, which lasts until June 2, according to the tax bureau under the Ministry of Finance.

With members of the public preferring to stay home and ride out the SARS storm, online filings appear to have doubled this year from 35,000 taxpayers who took advantage of the service last year during the same period of time, a tax bureau official surnamed Tsai said yesterday, adding that the goal of attracting 500,000 online taxpayers should be achievable.

Last year, 348,000 taxpayers out of the nation's total 4.8 million single and joint filing taxpayers, or 7.35 percent, utilized the online tax program.

Ever since the outbreak of SARS last month, authorities have been urging taxpayers to file in cyberspace and if they owe taxes, to pay with credit cards.

Over 10 percent of the nation's taxpayers charged outstanding taxes to their credit cards when the new measure was first launched last year according to the ministry.

The online tax-filing program, however, is not open to expatriate residents, whose new personal identification codes are inconsistent with those used when they opened bank accounts previously.

"Only when the nation's banks renew their system to update expatriates' new personal ID will it be possible for the online tax-filing system to be open to foreigners," said Jade Ro (羅玉蘭), foreign affairs section chief at the National Taxation Administration of Northern Taiwan.

To better serve foreign taxpayers, the administration welcomes tax-filing reports in person or by mail, she said, adding that interns will assist with tax filings.

To compete for credit-card tax payments this year, most banks have waived the NT$50 transaction fee and even offer cash giveaways and prizes to encourage their use.

Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託銀行) and Union Bank of Taiwan (聯邦銀行) are offering gievaways to persuade the public to use their credit cards to pay taxes.

The ministry yesterday urged all taxpayers to file before the June 2 deadline.

The penalty for the late filing of income tax can include fines of three times taxes due, plus interest.

Anyone who attempts to evade taxes or make fraudulent statements by forging tax documents faces a maximum fine of NT$60,000 or a jail term of up to five years.

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