Easing the euthanasia ban
When the ban on euthanasia of stray pets was adopted I admired its heart, but wondered what the people who voted in favor of it were thinking.
Rabies is an enzootic disease in Taiwan and I anticipated the resulting increase in the population of abandoned pets. Any increase would involve abandoned pets competing more with wild animals for territory and food. That, in turn, could lead to rabies among these feral pets and to a chain of infection that would enter any areas that these animals share with humans. That could result in an outbreak of human cases of rabies unless we were fully prepared for the eventuality.
There was, however, no indication that this was even considered, much less planned for.
One might consider three main alternatives to euthanasia for the shelters, whether they be public or private.
One option would be to keep the unadopted pets in the shelters and care for them until they die naturally, which would be costly and eventually result in overcrowded conditions unless the abandonment ceases.
A second one would be to neuter and vaccinate all abandoned pets against rabies and then release them. This would lead to an increase in the population of strays, but it would limit the spread of rabies.
The third would be to release them in the condition in which they were received, in which case the shelters might as well to not capture them in the first place. This would result in reproduction in the wild and a much larger potential of spreading rabies to suburban and urban populations. In this event, public health measures should be taken.
There are, of course, other alternatives. Pet sellers could be required to insert microchips and document who purchases their pets. That person would then be required to pay a penalty if the pet is not kept. The cost of the microchip and its insertion would increase the cost of pets and reduce the magnitude of the abandonment problem.
The cost of microchips for pets who are not neutered could be made higher than those for neutered pets. If the price difference is higher than the cost of neutering that would further reduce the problem.
Of course, we could just wait in the hope that it is more humane to let the strays fend for themselves.
New Taipei City
Tax reform benefits the rich
The US Congress earlier this month passed a tax reform bill, but according to a CNN poll, 55 percent of Americans are opposed to the bill and only 38 percent support it.
In addition, there is obvious partisan disagreement on the bill. Why? Not only because the tax reform is most beneficial to the wealthy, its benefits to the middle class are limited and maybe even harmful, as it might widen the wealth gap and cause increased social tension.
Tax reform in Taiwan is also being criticized for benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the poor. The tax reform proposed by the Ministry of Finance supposedly lowers taxes for everyone, but is in fact widening the wealth gap, in particular as stock dividend tax is being levied separately.
Taxes will increase for those in the lowest tax bracket, while the wealthiest one-thousandth or one ten-thousandth of a percent in the NT$10 million (US$335,031) and above tax bracket will receive a tax reduction of NT$4.44 million.
There will be no significant difference in taxation for the middle class, whose main income is their salary rather than stock dividends.
If the government goes ahead with the separate taxation of stock dividends, it will have broken the progressive tax system, which should be a fundamental component of a fair tax system.
By comparison, the South Korean parliament on Dec. 6 passed a budget bill in preparation of a tax increase for big companies and wealthy people beginning next year.
The income tax rate for individuals earning more than 500 million won (US$44.5 million) is to be increased from 40 to 42 percent, and the income tax for incomes between 300 million and 500 million won is to be raised to 40 percent.
For companies, a new business tax bracket is to be introduced, raising the tax for companies with an annual income of more than 200 billion won to 22 percent from 20 percent, while the highest capital gains tax on stockholders is to be raised from 20 to 25 percent.
This increases national tax revenue, which helps create employment opportunities, expand social welfare measures, improve low-income growth and mitigate polarization.
As the public pays taxes, the government uses the tax revenue to adjust the wealth gap and care for disadvantaged groups.
However, it seems that Taiwan’s tax reform policy brings limited benefit to grassroots employees and many other wage earners, while benefiting the wealthy, and perhaps further widening the wealth gap.
The draft Income Tax Act (所得稅法) amendment last week passed its second reading at the legislature, so one can only hope that there is still some room for explanation, debate and adjustment.
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