Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Just a day after naming and shaming Indonesia’s 100 top tax-dodging companies, the Finance Ministry revealed that 113 lawmakers from the House of Representatives and 23 members of the Regional Representatives Council did not even have tax registration numbers.
Though cynics may jump to the conclusion that the embarrassing revelation is linked to the House special committee investigating the Bank Century bailout approved by Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the ministry did warn last year that candidates contesting the legislative elections would be exposed if they failed to obtain tax registration numbers, also known as NPWP.
Mochamad Tjiptarjo, the director general of taxation, told Metro TV on Friday that 136 House and Council members were not registered, but did not disclose their names. He said the ministry would ensure they applied for tax numbers.
Sebastian Salang, a political analyst from the Forum of Concerned Citizens for the Indonesian Parliament (Formappi), said the politicians were setting a bad example for the public.
“They should be aware that they are supposed to be role models for the citizens, especially in regards to tax ID matters,” he said.
Sebastian, however, warned against any attempts by the Finance Ministry to investigate lawmakers for failing to register.
“The House members would declare any such attempt an abuse of power,” he said.
Arif Wibowo, a legislator from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), blamed the ministry for not being more proactive and informing the lawmakers directly of their legal obligations. By law, individuals who earn more than Rp 15.8 million ($1,700) per year are required to submit tax returns and pay income tax.
“However,” Arif said, “whether legislators have a tax ID or not, our taxes are automatically deducted from our salaries every month.”
Asked about the PDI-P’s policy regarding tax identification numbers, Arif said the central board had issued a letter asking all members to apply for an NPWP.
“It is related to the requirement that all state officials file asset reports with the KPK,” he said, referring to the Corruption Eradication Commission. “Every PDI-P member, especially those in the House, is required to have the ID.”
Arif, who said he had a tax number, added that many Indonesians were reluctant to pay tax due to inadequate government services.
Ruhut Sitompul, from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, said that although his party required all members to have tax numbers, tax issues remained a private matter for each lawmaker.
“I am a good taxpayer, I got my ID a few years ago,” he said.
Ruhut, however, said he supported the government and the Finance Ministry in their efforts to educate lawmakers about obtaining tax numbers, adding that an investigation should be initiated.