Thousands of people wearing yellow vests yesterday rallied in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei to demand that the government reform tax laws and return what they say were unfairly levied taxes.
The tax system is “unfair and lacks transparency,” said the Tax and Legal Reform League, which organized the rally.
To improve the system, the government should convene a national congress to discuss tax reform and establish a committee to help people who have been erroneously taxed, it said in a statement.
Photo courtesy of the Tax and Legal Reform League
The system makes it extremely difficult for victims of erroneous or illegal taxation to recover their money, said Wu Ching-chin (吳景欽), an associate professor in Aletheia University’s Department of Law and one of the league’s founding members.
When someone files an administrative appeal over illegal or erroneous taxation, they still have to pay half of the taxes levied while the case is ongoing, he said.
“This means that if you have been illegally asked to pay NT$10 million [US$324,538], you would have to pay NT$5 million first,” Wu said.
Moreover, the appeal process usually takes 10 years and the chance of winning such a case is only 6 percent, he added.
“Even if you win, the court ruling is useless,” Wu said, adding that the National Taxation Bureau could continue to levy the tax deemed illegal by the court due to a legislative flaw that grants it the authority to “recheck” its own tax decisions.
Tax bureaus continue to levy illegal and erroneous taxes, because admitting mistakes would prevent officials from receiving performance-based bonuses, he said, adding that tax bureaus have more performance-based bonuses than any other government agency.
“To lessen people’s pain, the bureau should stop requiring the same tax to be paid once an administrative court has ruled it to be illegal,” Wu said.
The unfair tax system not only causes unnecessary suffering, but pushes foreign investors away, he said.
The rally is “people’s protest against this undemocratic system and demand for a better life,” he added.
League members began protesting unfair taxes in yellow vests on Dec. 18, 2016, well before the “yellow vest” protests began in France, said another founding member of the league, Chen Chih-lung (陳志龍), a retired National Taiwan University law professor.
“As with the French ‘yellow vest’ protesters, we are against government bullying. We are opposed to the government doing whatever it wants, believing it is the boss,” he said.
“This is a human rights movement,” Chen said, adding that similar protests are happening in Belgium and Hungary.
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