Misunderstanding on taxPresident Roh Moo-hyun said in a recent interview that single-home owners over the age of 65 in Korea account for less than 1 percent of the total taxpayers who face the comprehensive real estate tax. “A presidential candidate who promises to slash capital gains tax and comprehensive real estate tax is a president for only 1 percent, or for 4 percent at best,” he said. Obviously, President Roh must have in mind Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party, who stressed that the government needs to cut taxes on single-home owners, those who own houses for a long period of time and retirees.
President Roh’s latest comment highlights his endless obsession with taking sides and his misunderstanding about tax, not to mention that the move was an unfair political attack on one specific candidate. President Roh’s comment also underscores the fact that the comprehensive real estate tax was a punitive tax targeting the nation’s richest 4 percent. It divided people into the haves and the have-nots.
It also indicates that President Roh assumes that those who make a lot of money are immoral and he is determined to punish them through tax.
How could the president make this comment to his people?
The president’s distorted understanding about taxation is a serious issue. It seems to matter little to him how desperate and cornered a single-home owner over 65 years old feels when they receive a huge comprehensive real estate tax bill. But these people are also Koreans and the taxes they pay come from a lifetime of labor. Just because they are small in number does not mean that you can slap them with whatever tax you want without careful consideration.
While we have pointed out the fundamental problems of the comprehensive real estate tax, we have constantly urged the government to come up with measures to ease the tax burden on seniors and single-home owners who have been living on the property for a long period of time.
The candidate Lee is not the only one urging an overhaul of the comprehensive real estate tax. The president, who will step down soon, can defend his own policy. But he has no right to stop the next administration from correcting problems made by the previous administration.