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New Customs Department ‘land tax’ overburdens owners with acreage

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BY  IMNA: The Customs Department in Mudon and Thanphyuzayart Townships is collecting a ‘land tax’ for the first time from farmers and plantation owners in the region. Landowners that are subject to the tax have reported extreme difficulty in fronting the funds to make the payments.

One eye witness from Thanphyuzayart reported that land owners, who are faced with the Customs Department’s demanding payment of 30,000 kyat per acre, could not pay the tax and have been avoiding the customs office members when they come by to make collections. It remains unclear as to what will happen to farmers who are caught skirting payment of the land tax.

The land tax which began last week, is a burdensome surprise for residents. According to one resident, “[The] Customs Department has never asked for money before – this is the first time. They [Customs Department] asked for a land list from us and they said we have to pay our land tax to their department. As for me I only have 4 acres of land, so it is not ok for me to just pay this land tax.”

According to a rubber plantation owner from Thanphyuzayart, due to the Customs Department land tax, rubber plantation owners are now facing significant financial difficulty. “I didn’t get a good price for my rubber today. If I will be asked for money for the land tax, it’s going to go badly for me” he said.

As an example, the approximate price of rubber in Mudon and Thanphyuzayart Townships is a little over 1,000 kyat per pound of rubber. The average acre of rubber plantation will produce 5 lbs of rubber. This would leave the above plantation owner with an income of close to 20,000 kyat per harvest.

Similar news of a new Customs Department land tax is spreading in Mudon Township through land owners. Yet according to a government servant from Mudon Township, Customs Department officials have yet to begin collecting the tax.

Last Monday members of the Customs Department went around collecting 450 kyat per house in Thanphyuzayart town, saying the money was for the ‘cleaning tax’ to maintain roadways and land around houses, according to resident.

The sudden increase in new taxes remains unexplained for residents, though a political observer from Thanphyuzayart speculated that its connected to approaching 2010 election. He believes that government departments, such as the Fire Brigade, Police, Traffic Police and Customs Department, will continue asking for money under the guise of different taxes or other justifications to gather as much funding before the election for fear that afterwards policies or positions might change, thus denying them the ability to further tax residents.

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