Foreigners living in Taiwan got a rare opportunity to share their thoughts on the subject of taxes in Taipei yesterday.
A total of 32 participants from 14 countries joined the 2006 Chinese Speech and Rap Competition for Foreigners, hosted by the Taipei National Tax Administration (TNTA).
For the speech competition, participants could either talk about their experiences of filing taxes or could share their views on taxes and life.
Contestants for the rap competition, on the other hand, could either rap TNTA slogans or other tax-related lyrics. They were also encouraged to don traditional dress from their home countries when performing on stage.
Lei Li-wei (磊麗薇), TNTA's services division chief, said the participants represented a wide variety of countries, including South Korea, Russia, the US, Canada, Thailand, Myanmar and Japan. She said the concept of paying taxes can be delivered in a much more interesting way through members of the foreign community.
"No one would want to hear anything about tax policy if it was introduced by our own people," Lei said, "but it it is more interesting when tax policy is described in Mandarin with exotic accents."
Lei added that foreigners in general understand how paying taxes can facilitate the construction of public infrastructure and are often amazed that taxpayers in Taiwan can file their tax reports online.
A majority of the contestants were students studying Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) or National Chengchi University (NCCU). Only a few of the contestants held full-time jobs.
While most of them do not have extensive knowledge of Taiwan's tax policy, they nevertheless approached the topic from different perspectives.
Fedor Susov, an exchange student from Russia studying at NCCU and first-prize winner in the speech competition, shared his tax-filing experience in Russia. Susov said he wanted to drive home two main points in his speech.
For one, he said many Russians find it difficult to file taxes as the country has relatively recently transitioned from a socialist state to a nation that embraces a market economy.
He also wanted to stress that it is honorable when a citizen can file their tax report honestly.
Susov noted, however, that taxes were a rather serious topic.
"I find it hard to joke about it," he said.
Dayal Nitai Das, or Nitai, a preacher of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness who came to Taiwan from Belgium nine years ago, took part in the rap competition and won fifth place.
Dressed in an Indian outfit, Nitai sang one of the TNTA slogans for the tax season to the melody of an old French song.
The slogan emphasized the relevance of tax-paying, social welfare and the construction of national infrastructure.
"Tax is a traditional form of raising revenue and a necessary system," he said. "It is fair that everyone submits a share of his income for the construction of the country. And I am willing to do my share."
The competition encouraged participation from anyone over 18 years old who was not a Republic of China passport holder. People from Hong Kong, Macau and China, however, were not eligible to participate.
Each presentation was graded in terms of its content, vocabulary, performance and creativity.
Susov picked up NT$20,000 (US$625) for winning the speech contest, while an American with the Chinese name Chuang Tse-i (