[LETTERS to the editor]Require disclosure of tax usePaying taxes is an expense that people cannot avoid. But who spends our tax money, and how is it used? Obviously, the government spends our money on national defense, social welfare programs and national infrastructure. These expenses clearly benefit every citizen. What about the rest of our taxes? Who gets to spend them? Recently, so-called special grants became an issue because government bodies had used them irresponsibly. [Special grants are funds that come from our taxes and can be provided for special purposes outside of the regular budget. Recently, however, they were found to have been used in questionable ways.] For example, officials have reportedly handed out money from special grant funds at the disposal of the education ministry to their former high schools. Special grants have been used by members of the legislature illegally. The special grant funds at the disposal of the Education Ministry amounts to 1.1 trillion won ($1.1 billion), but it was discovered that only 20 percent was used for its intended purpose and the rest was used as “pocket money” for top government officials.
I strongly believe it is necessary for the government to disclose how they use our tax money for the following reasons:
First, special grants can be used illegally. This is corruption. Not only have the top officials used the special grants illegally but they have also been used by legislators [who are supposed to monitor them]. Also, it is known that not much of the national budget is used to improve our schools’ education and facilities so it is criminal behavior the way our leaders are using the people’s money even as Korean families’ greatest expense is their children’s education. But since there aren’t any laws to disclose how the people’s taxes are being used, a lot of officials and lawmakers misuse the special grant system.
Why can’t we do what a lot of developed countries do ? disclose expenditures of tax money? For example, in the United States the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides all the important statistical information regarding U.S. government spending.
Also, there are government watchdogs that are non-governmental organizations whose job is to monitor all levels of government for fraud, waste, abuse, corruption, mismanagement, illegal activity, campaign donor influence, abuse of authority, miscarriage of justice and other activities. Since the government imposes taxes on the people, the people should have the right to know why, how and where their money is being used.
And last but not least, the Korean people’s quality of living is gradually declining due to people paying taxes without getting any benefit from it. Norway, Finland and Canada are known as countries with high taxes but provide their citizens lots of benefits. Here citizens do not know where their money is being spent.
A-yeon Choi, Ilsan
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