The first reading of the draft amendments to the Tobacco and Wine Law (菸酒稅法) failed to clear the legislature's Finance Com-mittee yesterday as lawmakers lambasted the government's plan to slash tax rates on cooking rice wine, rather than the more popular rice wine.
The Ministry of Finance plans to cut the tax on cooking rice wine, also known as salted rice wine, from NT$22 (US$0.70) per liter to NT$9 to encourage the public to purchase cooking rice wine and reduce demand for rice wine, the unsalted but popular seasoning.
Rice wine, categorized as liquor, is currently taxed at NT$185 per liter, compared with the NT$26 tax on a liter of beer.
Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said last October that the ministry should study the possibility of reducing tax rates on liquor and rice wine as soon as possible to ease the pressure from rising commodity prices and curb rampant bootlegging.
However, the government has to negotiate first with other WTO members before it can slash tax rates on all liquors, instead of unilaterally reducing taxes on rice wine.
The government's plan then is to encourage the use of cooking rice wine, which contains salt, as a complementary measure.
Lawmakers expressed their displeasure at the government's explanation at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Finance Com-mittee yesterday.
"Rice wine is one of the Tai-wanese people's daily necessities, but it is subject to a high tax rate equivalent to that imposed on higher-priced liquors like whisky," Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lo Chih-ming (羅志明) said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Fei Hung-tai (