Over 2,000 recyclers and legislators jointly staged a large-scale demonstration yesterday protesting against the manner in which the recycling industry is taxed.
Led by Taiwan Solidarity Union legislators Lo Chih-ming (
Some arrived on tour buses, but others came pulling the carts they use to carry recyclable items.
The demonstration began peacefully, but turned violent when 10 protesters, who had handcuffed themselves, were confronted by guards when they tried to enter the Legislative Yuan.
Recycling service operator Wu Chao-chih (吳招治) said that the tax policy requiring collectors to present receipts was unreasonable.
"We [the collectors] are asked to fill in receipts stipulating our sources' names, identification numbers and other personal information," Wu said.
Wu explained in an earlier interview that it was very difficult to comply with this requirement, as people simply left their recyclable items on the street for collectors to pick up.
Wu said yesterday that although the ministry currently only taxes large-scale recyclers, its policy would eventually affect the entire recycling industry.
Some recyclers demonstrated their anger last week at a meeting with a ministry official by heaping cans and plastic bags on his desk. The negotiation ended with no solution in sight, leading to yesterday's protest.
In response to the accusations, administrative deputy minister Chen Shuh (
According to Chen, the ministry is mainly targeting fraudulent medium and large recyclers who attempt to gather the names of the individuals and spread the income among them in order to pay less tax.
The ministry claims that Wu's company has provided personal information to recycling wholesalers in order to assist them in evading tax and has issued him in excess of 290 fines totaling more than NT$2.1 billion.
Wu protested his innocence.
"The ministry said we use the names to avoid paying taxes," Wu said. "We say we use these names to help the the [large recyclers] pay income tax."
Currently, the ministry requires recyclers to pay 3 percent income tax if they can present transaction records, and 5 percent if they cannot.
Chang Hsu-chang (張旭彰), a representative from the waste management department of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), said the administration has discussed the matter with the ministry on numerous occasions. He added that there is really nothing the administration can do about the issue.
The ministry has to consider the matter of consistency in applying tax policies and the EPA can only follow its interpretation of the laws, he said.
Chang said, however, that the administration hoped an agreement could be reached between the ministry and the recyclers.
"If the problem is not resolved, the recycling mechanism will crumble," Chang said.
According to a Formosa Television report, protesters threatened to stage an even bigger protest if the issue is not resolved within a week.