I met a girl at Inland Revenue who basically corrects all of my forms, which are deeply messed up and at times farcical. By the end I feel like we’ve been on a date and I’m stuck with the bill, trying not to look shocked. I thought if I smiled enough she’d help me fudge stuff, but she doesn’t, she actually gets more out of me. This sucks, but I console myself that I can complain for the rest of the year without guilt.
Very few people in Sri Lanka actually pay income tax, which may be part of the problem. Everyone gets ‘taxed’ through inflation (government printing money, at our expense), VAT (on products), on cars, petrol, etc, but many don’t ‘feel’ like they’re paying tax. This makes it seem like the government’s coffers are somehow infinite, and they’re not.
Last year I worked a desk job and did freelance stuff. Little did I know, the freelance stuff pushed me into another bracket and I got hammered. Basically 14% and then 30% on everything above a certain level. The government took 30% of all the freelance work I did and it sucks. This, however, does make me intimately sensitive to government waste on a personal level, which I think more people should be. I do think government should be frugal because it really is other people’s money.
Not that I mind most government services or employees. I think the military, hospitals and (up to a point) education function. However, some stuff is a bit offensive. For example, printing shoddy money with the current President on it, right before an election. Or spending Rs. 9 million of state funds on a gymnastics display at the SLFP party convention. Among other things.
Some people I know respond to this by not paying tax at all, and feeling fine about it. In my case I basically forgot one year and they tracked me down, so I have that fear in me. But I also feel that I make enough noise about government behavior that I try to be legit myself.
For one thing I feel bad lying to the girl. For another, she can find my file in that mess of kindling in less than two minutes, and that scares me. But, for another, I also feel like you have to pay to play. If I want to complain about the government, I need to at least pay my taxes. So I told the girl I’d see her next year. Maybe if I bring her chocolates she’ll let me deduct them.