Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that “taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilised society”. Known in America as The Great Dissenter, this quote of his has been seen even in television as part and parcel of why people are made to pay tax.
I wrote once that there was a need for people to look at the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as part and parcel of levelling the tax playing field.
And quite honestly seeing as how less than 10 percent of the Malaysian workforce was paying taxes to support government programmes such as expanding public transport and even fixing up roads or even the plethora of subsidies we all benefit from, it was timely to introduce it.
However, the stench of hypocrisy among the rich and our so-called political leaders preaching “patriotism” reeks.
In the last few days, leaked documents dubbed the “Panama Papers” have detailed some 1,500 Malaysians who have offshore bank accounts which were used for evading taxes. Among these leaders include the son of the Prime Minister himself and his nephew, and Mahathir’s son as well.
Now, personally, I’m going to be digging through those names soon since I’ve the ample time to do so.
But at the same time, we also have political leaders coming out to say that having offshore bank accounts are not a crime. This much is true, as pointed out by Khairy Jamaluddin, Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah and even Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz – the last one even going all out to admit even he stashed cash out of the country.
However, how do you justify the hypocrisy of supporting everyone paying taxes and especially the GST while you yourselves all dodge it with the ability of forming offshore bank accounts?
How do you look at the regular everyday Malaysian to tell them to bear the brunt of the cost when it is obvious that you yourself cheat the system to avoid doing the same?
The actions of politicians – so called “Malay Nationalists” even – using offshore accounts to avoid doing their simple patriotic duty to the nation? How do you balance this with all those words of yours telling people to do otherwise?
By all means, it isn’t criminal. But the double speak of so-called patriots trying to avoid paying their dues does leave a bad taste in every Malaysians mouths who understands having been told to deal with living under a new tax code without proper oversight.
And the Malaysian people will raise even more questions; primarily, were the tax ringgits they paid as part of their patriotic duty to the point of struggling to make ends meet, end up in some Datuk or Tan Sri or Puan Sri’s account for their generational slush fund?
At the same time, perhaps the LHDN would like to comment on the need to tax offshore cash or what other ramifications this means to the financial sector – which, by the looks of it, has been lacking in securing the outflow of cash offshore without any red flags raised.
Here we are in a nation where the everyday Malaysian is struggling to make ends meet, with many young graduates still unemployed and trying to eke out a living.
Meanwhile, the top 5 percent it seems have already begun to send their monies out of the country since 2010. And by all means, we do need to spread this message out to the Malaysian public to make them understand just what is being done by the rich to avoid paying to keep the country running.
To that end, it would make perfect sense for the list of names to be published and double checked against the registrar of companies to find their links to our corporate and political world. If taxes are truly what we pay to live in a civilised society, then by all means our leaders in both the civil and corporate sectors should prove their civility in bearing the burden to subsidise the poor – just like every other middle class Malaysian paying taxes and the GST.