[EDITORIALS]Spinning wheels on taxes

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[EDITORIALS]Spinning wheels on taxes

Is raising property taxes just like belling the cat? The government measures to curb soaring apartment prices call for, among other things, more taxes on real estate holdings. But the proposed solutions to the problem seem to lead to still more problems.

The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, which is in charge of determining property tax rates, said Friday that it opposes heavier taxes on real estate ownership. That came just two days after eight ministries and agencies, including the Home Affairs Ministry, jointly unveiled steps to cool the real estate market.

The Sept. 4 measures say that beginning next year, the government will raise its standard property tax assessments on apartments in the Seoul area, where speculative home transactions are booming and apartment prices soaring. New tax rates were not decided.

The Home Affairs Ministry argues that if the government raises assessments to reflect market prices of apartments as proposed by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, apartment owners will see their tax burdens more than double immediately. That would include people who have never speculated in real estate. That is not a new argument, but it is a good one.

But some problems remain. We believe there is a consensus that the current property tax system is unfair and that assessments must reflect the actual value of properties. It is clearly wrong that an owner of a 300-million-won ($250,000) apartment in Yongin, Gyeonggi province, pays about 10 times more property taxes than an owner of a 500-million-won apartment in Seoul's Gangnam district. It is urgent to right the wrongs of the tax system. We need to find practical ways to solve the problem while minimizing the effects on the economy, not just repeat the arguments on both sides.

The public is also confused by the Home Affairs Ministry's opposition to the Sept. 4 measures even though it signed on to the anti-speculative steps. Such discord within the administration will cost the government still more public trust and will lead to a failure to solve the problem.

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