TAIPEI - The finance minister yesterday objected to a claim that the National Taxation Bureau is targeting the Taipei City mayor, saying that auditors are also investigating President Ma and Sean Lien for tax evasion.
Minister of Finance Chang Sheng-ford reported yesterday to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Yuan.
During interpellation, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsu Tain-tsair asked Chang if the finance ministry's National Taxation Bureau retreats when handed tax evasion tips on "big figures."
Hsu listed President Ma Ying-jeou, Lien and pro-unification social commentator and former lawmaker Li Ao as "big figures."
"Absolutely not," Chang replied.
The finance minister stressed that the National Taxation Bureau follows a politically neutral standard procedure when handling complaints of tax evasion.
There are currently six tax evasion cases pending on President Ma Ying-jeou, Chang said, adding that details cannot be disclosed while cases are under investigation.
The National Taxation Bureau has come under fire for summoning the parents of newly elected Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je for possible tax evasion.
The bureau was following a tip from the Lien campaign, which alleged that Ko received NT$10 million (S$420, 000) as a gift from his parents to purchase a home in Taipei, but called the gift a loan in order to avoid gift tax.
Asked whether Ko will need to pay outstanding gift tax, Chang was tightlipped, again citing the confidentiality clause in the Tax Collection Act.
Asked if there is a double standard in how competent authorities handle tips from Lien and Ko, Chang replied, "How do you know the revenue office is not investigating Lien?"
Chang said he served as chief of the National Taxation Bureau for over 10 years under both pan-blue and pan-green administrations. He said his experience is that there are "no political considerations" in the auditing process.
"There is no need to treat anyone preferentially or to treat anyone especially badly. Not to mention the fact that this person (Ko) has been elected to political office and that person (Lien) has not been elected, so what is the political motive? There is no sense to this," he said.
Chang said there are between 800 and 900 active tax evasion probes on Lien.
The National Taxation Bureau receives about 29,000 complaints annually, and 81 per cent of these "lack concrete evidence and are not actionable," Chang said.
All tips are handled through a standardized procedure, Chang said.
In another interpellation session, Chang told Kuomintang Legislator Lin Te-fu that no names and only numbers are attached to each case.
The national revenue office is "already short on manpower" and has no additional resources to direct toward "serving as thugs" on behalf of a political party, he said.
"Who can guarantee that everyone in the National Taxation Bureau is pan-blue?" he said.