Foreign embassies in Kabul and tax evasion

In Afghanistan if your monthly salary is 5000 afs ($100) or less, you don’t pay any income taxes. If it’s more that 5000 afs you pay 2 percent in tax, if you earn more than 12,500 afs you pay 10 percent in tax, if you earn 100,000 afs, ($ 2000) and more, you pay 20 percent as income tax. But does everyone really pay his taxes?

There is a report on BBC Persian’s Afghanistan service website (published on May 23) about the trouble of Afghan government to collect the taxes from the local employees of the foreign embassies.

According to the protocols, the embassies are not required to collect the taxes of their local staff, but they are obliged to provide financial information about their local employees to the host government.

Some embassies cooperate with the Afghan ministry of finance, but according to this report, most of them don’t. The US embassy which has 1,200 local staff never cooperates in this issue with the government; neither does the Canadian embassy which employs 50 Afghans with an average monthly salary of $1000. One of its employees is quoted to say: “No one likes to pay part of his money as tax”.

The UK embassy, DFID, and German embassy have said that they collect the taxes of their employees and pay it to the government, but the finance ministry officials have told to BBC that they have never received any tax money or financial report from these places.

The point is that these western missions in Kabul are so vocal about the state-building and reforming the Afghan government institutions, they claim they have reformed the taxation system of the government, and keep lecturing us about the virtues of paying taxes. But in fact, they fail to cooperate with the very tax system they’ve helped build.  The US government (that in 2010 alone, collected more that $1,000 bn in income tax from its citizens), in particular should better know that Afghanistan cannot survive without a proper tax system.

According to this report, the annual revenue of Afghanistan from income taxes of the government and non-government workers is about $ 100 millions, if these embassies cooperate this amount can considerably increase.

I know some Afghans believe that, why they should pay taxes to a government which doesn’t provide public services? They are right to some extents, but let’s be honest, the government (in spite of all the corruptions) is trying to do some things here and there by the aid money it receives from the world. If we pay taxes, from one hand, the government will start to become financially self-sufficient and on the other hand, the officials will act more responsibly. I think that the government people steal the aid money, partly because in the bottom of their hearts, they believe this money is not Afghanistan’s money, it comes from the “infidels” as free donations, so they don’t feel guilty of stealing it. As one proverb says “the money which is brought by wind, will be taken by wind” (literal translation). If we pay our hard-earned money as taxes to this government, we will be more likely to hold the officials accountable, and also they will be feeling more under pressure to stay clean. … At least it’s a good wishful thinking, isn’t it!?

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