KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Blatant excess and corruption in government spending were why Malaysians sought to evade paying taxes rather than a purported sense of disloyalty, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin wrote in his blog today.
Disputing Putrajaya's view that tax evaders were unpatriotic for failing to add to the country's coffers, the former group editor-in-chief for English daily New Straits Times believed the public were sickened by the sight of their hard-earned tax payments falling victim to the government's profligacy.
“More and more people, I believe, are reluctant and unhappy to pay taxes because they hold the view that the government is lavish and corrupt,” he wrote in a blog entry today.
“As a further proof, civil servants are paid bonuses. The poor are being promised higher BR1M. The government is spending billions engaging consultants. Ministers and their spouses are jetting around the world, purportedly promoting diplomacy and attracting investments.” The veteran newsman was referring to recent revelations in Parliament that appeared to show no slowdown in government spending despite a chronic budget deficit that has forced Putrajaya to roll out a new tax and slash subsidies for the public.
Among others, these include a RM7.2 billion bill for private consultants since 2009 and a disclosure that RM180 million was spent for flights on a private jet for government leaders last year alone. This were in addition to the annual teeth-gnashing by the public that greets the Auditor-General's Report on financial wastage to the tune of billions of ringgit that rarely, if ever, sees offenders punished.
Yesterday, state news agency Bernama quoted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as saying that those who avoid paying tax can be regarded as having betrayed the country, and those who paid their dues were showing their patriotism. Najib's remarks were made when when outlining the government’s reasons to introduce the controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST), which was confirmed during his Budget 2014 speech last month.
The attempt to link tax contributions to patriotism also attracted a swipe by former Cabinet minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who dubbed Chinese Malaysians “true patriots” after claiming the minority group paid more taxes than any other race in the country, including the dominant Malay community. “I agree with PM that paying tax is patriotic act. Since more Chinese pay tax than the Malays they are true patriots,” Zaid said on his Twitter account, @zaidibrahim. Earlier, Najib was also quoted as saying the revenue was needed to continue developing the country, as Malaysians were now more demanding and had higher expectations of the government. Malaysia’s proposed GST rate of 6 per cent, which will be enforced from April 2015, is the lowest in the region, whereas most countries implement a 10 per cent value added tax (VAT).
The consumption tax was first announced during Budget 2005 and was originally scheduled to be implemented in 2007, and tabled for the first reading in 2009 for implementation in late 2011, but was withdrawn during the second reading in 2010 following fierce public resistance. Unlike income tax, which is only applicable after a certain salary level is exceeded, the GST means all Malaysians will be taxed according to their level of spending, regardless of income. Its introduction has met with vehement resistance from certain consumer groups and opposition parties, most recently PAS where its religious cleric wing called the GST “unIslamic” during its annual congress which kicked off last week.