Truth evasionThe National Tax Service is a government agency that collects taxes and monitors tax evasion. The duties of the tax office are no more and no less than that. The tax office is not a government organization that exercises legislative power. So it’s painful to hear that corruption is taking place in the process of collecting taxes. This has been happening for a long time. Many expected that these problems would decrease during the Roh administration, so the recent news about corruption in the tax office is even more frustrating.
The head of the tax service in Busan received a bribe of 100 million won ($105,000) from the chairman of a construction company and downsized the scale of the tax investigation into the company. Even the head of a regional tax office has the power to reduce the number of companies under investigation from four to two. This old-fashioned tactic still works today.
The National Tax Service may want to regard this as an unusual incident but that is not the case. An employee at the tax office raised one of his fingers to a taxpayer to indicate that he wished to receive 10 million won as a bribe and he was caught.
Large-scale financial crimes involve employees at the tax service. Corruption is lurking in every corner of the office, from senior employees down to the lowest administrator. The incumbent administration said it would make tax administration more humane. The administration said its policy had been a success and even boasted that taxes were being collected without problems. We wonder if the recent case of bribery is humane tax administration.
It has also been revealed that a presidential secretary was involved in the bribery case. Suspicions arise that the tax service was under the influence of the administration’s powerful figures.
The tax service investigated some 100 cases involving presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak’s real estate transactions. This also adds to the suspicion. The tax service said the investigation was routine but it is suspicious that the office chose Lee as a target. The tax service is now tainted.
The government put considerable emphasis on political neutrality at four major government agencies, namely the National Tax Service, National Intelligence Service, the prosecution and the police. But are these agencies truly free from political influence? The National Tax Office must explain this recent case of corruption, clear the suspicion that the offense was politically charged and issue an apology. We want to see the National Tax Office regain its integrity.