Luckless tax collector jailed for selling tax dodges
Curses! Romania's witches forced to pay income tax
The lengths people go to evade taxes -- and governments go to levy them. We trim, blend, and append three 2011 articles from: (1) Associated Press, Jan 5, on witches by Alison Mutler; (2) BBC, Jan 19, on Indonesian by Alice Budisatrijo; and (3) Slate, Jan 6, on codes by Jeremy Singer-Vine.
by A. Mutler, by A. Budisatrijo, and by J. Singer-Vine
Curses! Romania's witches forced to pay income tax
Everyone curses the tax man, but Romanian witches angry about having to pay up for the first time are planning to use cat excrement and dead dogs to cast spells on the president and government.
Superstitions are no laughing matter in Romania -- the land of the medieval ruler who inspired the "Dracula" tale -- and have been part of its culture for centuries. President Traian Basescu and his aides have been known to wear purple on certain days, supposedly to ward off evil.
Romanian witches will head to the southern plains and the Danube River to threaten the government with spells and spirits because of the tax law, which came into effect Jan 1. A dozen witches will hurl the poisonous mandrake plant into the Danube to put a hex on government officials "so evil will befall them," said a witch named Alisia. She identified herself with one name -- customary among Romania's witches.
"What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything?" she said. "The lawmakers don't look at themselves, at how much they make, their tricks; they steal and they come to us asking us to put spells on their enemies."
In the past, the professions of witch, astrologer, and fortuneteller were not listed in the Romanian labor code. Under the new law, like any self-employed person, they will pay 16% income tax and make contributions to health and pension programs.
Some say the law will be hard to enforce, as the payments to witches and astrologers usually are made in cash and relatively small at 20 to 30 lei ($7-$10) per consultation.
Mircea Geoana, who lost the presidentical race to Basescu in 2009, performed poorly during a crucial debate, and his camp blamed attacks of negative energy by their opponent's aides.
Such spiritualism has long been tolerated by the Orthodox Church in Romania, and the late Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, had their own personal witch.
JJS: Some people fight back with curses, others by uglifying their homes, as in a Lonely Planet video on Egypt by Natalie Tran. click here . While incomplete construction is not illegal, other acts are. Even an insider can get punished for dodging taxes if he gets too flamboyant.
Indonesian taxman Gayus Tambunan jailed for corruption
An Indonesian former tax official has been jailed for seven years for causing millions of dollars in state losses.
Gayus Tambunan was found guilty on four counts of corruption -- including bribing his way out of bribery charges.
The case has gripped the nation as during the trial, the defendant managed to bribe his way out of jail dozens of times, including for overseas trips.
It has opened a window on government corruption, and damaged the president's reputation as an anti-graft reformer.
During the trial, Tambunan confessed to having helped powerful firms evade taxes, paying prosecutors and police officials, and relieving his stress by leaving his jail cell to watch an international tennis tournament in Bali.
He also admitted to having flown to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Macau using a forged passport while supposedly in detention.
In his attempt to avoid a heavy sentence, Tambunan offered to be made a special advisor to the nation's graft busters to help them catch not only the "small fish, but also the sharks and the whales" in the corrupt system.
He promised Indonesia would be "clean" within two years.
The judges did not consider this offer a factor, but did give him a lighter sentence than the 20 years demanded by prosecutors.
The case has embarrassed Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who came to power on an anti-corruption platform.
JJS: Corruption seems a logical consequence of complexity. Simplicity makes taxation, an institution that might not be at all fair to start with, easier to bear.
Which country has the simplest taxation system?
"I've had it. I'm moving someplace where the taxes are easier."In her annual report to Congress, the Internal Revenue Service's ombudswoman urged lawmakers to simplify the federal tax code.
Researchers from the World Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers measured the relative arduousness of paying taxes in 183 nations and territories. It would take an average firm less than an hour to comply with the Maldives' tax code; in Brazil, 2,600 person-hours -- about 108 days of nonstop work, or 325 eight-hour shifts. Belarus, the second slowest, requires 1,080 hours. The United States, requiring 110 hours to comply, ranks 23rd from the top.
It's tougher to find easily-comparable data for taxes on individuals. But the Maldives, which has no income, sales, property, or capital-gains taxes, would still rank near the top -- as would tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Andorra. Countries without these taxes can fund their governments by charging companies an annual licensing fee.
The length of the US tax code climbed from 1.4 million words to 3.8 million words between 2001 and last February. Since 1913, the code's physical volume has increased from 400 pages to about 70,000 pages.
Much of it consists of so-called "tax expenditures" -- loopholes that Congress puts in the code that apply to very few people or industries (whose identity is not revealed as they may contribute heavily to Congressional campaigns).
JJS: “Tax expenditures” granted by officeholders who received campaign contributions is clean corruption, a sham that more blunt governments could learn in order to bamboozle their citizens -- at least until taxation goes the way serfdom.
To me, taxes seem antiquated, a noose leftover from the days of feudalism and oppression. Taxes are not needed to have all citizens contribute to governance; land dues would work much better. However, it seems taxes on everyone’s income could serve two useful purposes, especially in America.
Many Americans are pro-war yet they don’t have to pay directly to wage war. Instead of letting the US Government sink deeply into debt to wage war, tax everyone a flat rate high enough to pay the expenses of militarization for the year. Getting hit in their pocketbook, people might think twice about sending armed forces all over the world.
The other use of an income tax would be to pay down the national debt. This tax would fall only on very high incomes. Its rate would be enough to pay both interest and some principle each year.
What about other government programs? Forget funding them with tax dollars. Instead, pay citizens a dividend from recovered “rents” (the worth of Earth) and let citizens hire the service providers of their own choice.
Note the income tax for war would drop to zero when people choose peace. The income tax for debt service would drop to zero when government lives within its means. Once taxes themselves are earmarked for this pair of public purchases (waging war and servicing debt), they would wither away automatically without a campaign to repeal them.
Such a policy is geonomics and it makes taxes cum complexity and corruption as obsolete as curses and incomplete building.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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