On July 1, the Ministry of Finance released its annual list of top tax evaders — and the listed individuals and firms are almost the same as in previous years. The ministry defines wealthy tax defaulters as individuals who owe at least NT$10 million (US$357,577) or companies that owe at least NT$50 million. This year’s list included 955 wealthy tax evaders, one fewer than last year, but the amount owed rose by NT$1.916 billion to NT$100.14 billion.
Since 2010, the ministry has posted the names of top tax evaders on its Web site over the last six months of the year in the hope of pressuring them to pay their share. Late business tycoon Huang Jen-chung (黃任中) again tops this year’s list of individuals, and two of his family members are also in the top five, with the family owing NT$5.066 billion in unpaid taxes. The Kaohsiung-based family of real-estate businessman Huang Cheng-chih (黃承志) is third, with NT$1.493 billion in outstanding taxes, but since his indictment over allegedly fraudulent loans in 2001, he has been hiding in China.
The Holiday Inn Asiaworld Taipei, which changed ownership to become the Sunworld Dynasty Hotel Taipei, once again tops the list of corporate tax evaders, with NT$2.473 billion in back taxes. The No. 2 corporate evader is Yang Hwa Technology Corp, a green energy company in Hsinchu County that made the list for the first time, with a NT$1.23 billion tax bill, while Procomp Informatics, which in 2004 defaulted on NT$2.98 billion in corporate bonds, is still third, with NT$1.175 billion in outstanding taxes.
While the ministry hopes that public opinion would prompt some listed firms and individuals to get current on their taxes, people are wondering if the list still packs any punch, as this year’s top 20 are similar to those of previous years, with the oldest case going back to 1985. Furthermore, from 2010 to March 31, the ministry only recovered NT$15.787 billion in unpaid taxes, with the amount recovered falling steadily. Unfortunately, the government’s ability to collect back taxes has lagged far behind tax defaults.
Adding salt to the wound, the opportunity to recover back taxes from some big defaulters might be closing. Going back to 2007, the government has on three occasions passed amendments to the Tax Collection Act (稅捐稽徵法) to extend the maximum collection period. This time, the government says that it wants to stay in step with the Civil Code, which states that a claim not exercised within 15 years should be annulled. Unless the collection period is once again extended, the ministry would on March 4 next year halt efforts to collect about NT$30 billion in back taxes owed by nearly 500 individuals and firms.
The ministry stopping efforts to collect older back taxes is not fair to the majority of taxpayers who pay their share — and only highlights the government’s inadequacy at collecting what it is owed. Tax evaders cannot be allowed to avoid paying their share, so the ministry must conduct a thorough review of its procedures for recovering unpaid taxes and coordinate better with the Ministry of Justice to crack down on tax evasion, dealing with offenders promptly and effectively.
The government must take the initiative to demonstrate its authority and make it more difficult for tax evaders to move abroad, as they use overseas registries or shell companies to hide assets and possibly also transfer property to unknown entities. The tax authorities could also use court orders to detain offenders and ensure that taxes owed are eventually paid.
On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a news conference via video link to announce a major strategic defense partnership, dubbed “AUKUS.” In an indication of the sensitivity and strategic weight attached to the pact, discussions were kept under wraps, with the announcement taking even seasoned military analysts by surprise. AUKUS represents a significant escalation of the transatlantic strategic tilt to the Indo-Pacific and should bring wider security benefits to the region, including Taiwan. At the forefront of the trilateral partnership is a bold plan to transfer highly sensitive US and
In an op-ed on Friday, Chen Hung-hui (陳宏煇), a former university military instructor, applauded the government’s efforts to reduce the “supply, demand and harm of cannabis.” (“Cannabis use booms on campuses,” Sept. 10, page 8). Chen recounted a story of a boy who partied with the “wrong crowd,” smoked cannabis and died. This story cannot be true, because cannabis is not deadly. Consuming too much can feel mighty unpleasant, but it will not kill a person. This fact is not only backed up by science and statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control, but is well-known in countries where cannabis
On Wednesday last week, the Transitional Justice Commission announced its plan to transform Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall into a park that would reflect Taiwan’s authoritarian past and its transition to democracy. This is a necessary step for the nation. Statues are powerful symbols of a glorious past and present; they represent an attempt of the past to reach into the future and allow for reflection on the past. However, as masters of the present, we must consider how future generations will look back to our days and the past that the generations collectively share. Taiwanese society is divided over the future
Bilateral relations between the US and China appear to be heading nowhere but down, but China’s leaders seem not to have given up on their broad-based push for a more cooperative relationship — yet. Late last year, when it became apparent that Joe Biden would succeed Donald Trump as US president, China’s leaders set in motion a plan to salvage relations with their greatest rival. In December, through public remarks from Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅), they offered the incoming administration a deal: If it would work to return the bilateral relationship to the “right track,” Beijing would