More than a month back, I sought an appointment with a Member of the Cabinet, in the hope that I could speak to him about some concerns I had. He promised to get back to me – but never did. I did not call him again because firstly, I know that he is a very busy man and can do without me pestering him time and again and, secondly, it is improper that I keep calling a Member of the Cabinet, at will.
I had, or have, 3 plus 1 specific concerns that I wanted to discuss with him. Of the 3, I will today discuss one of them. But first, I want to start with the plus 1 concern – not really a concern but a point of view.
I wanted to begin by offering him my point of view that if he truly desires to make a difference during his tenure as a Minister – he needed to dream small but achieve big. I wanted to tell him that this country has seen no dearth of dreamer of lofty dreams – but few have achieved anything meaningful. I wanted to caution him against that one fundamental human failing – that of overlooking the small important things that bring big changes, in our pursuit of big dreams that have, slowly but surely, put us on the road to destruction and ruin. I wanted to tell him not to lose sight of the woods while being distracted by the tree. Perhaps he should be satisfied seeing his reflection on the crystal waters of the free-flowing rivers, rather than the blurry outline on the murky waters of the hydro-power dams.
I wanted to tell him that perhaps there is a need for a change in the way we think and do things. Perhaps we need to look backwards to take us forward rather than look forward to be pushed rearward.
Perhaps the time is here for us to amend our outdated laws and rules that are out of tune with the changing times, rather than frame new ones that are most often done with poor understanding and in a state of confusion as to their purpose and intent.
I wanted to remind the Minister of a strange case where the author of the book’s foreword wrote that the rules and regulations contained in the book needed to be read and understood by every Bhutanese, while the agency that promulgated the rules and regulations marked on its cover: “STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL”.
And now, coming to 1 of the 3 concerns I wanted to discuss with the Minister, had I got that appointment I sought. I wanted to apprise him of the case pertaining to the rule concerning the transfer of vehicle ownership and the payment required to be paid for the purpose.
I wanted to clarify to him, if he did not already know, the difference between “TAX” and “FEE”. I wanted to point out to him that conceptually, “TAX” is collected as a measure of realizing revenue, while “FEE” becomes payable for a certain service rendered or performed. The act of amending the record of the ownership of an old vehicle from one to another – the act of printing a different ownership certificate is a service and thus should be subjected to a FEE and not a TAX. Therefore to levy 5% TAX on the transfer of ownership of vehicles is incorrect.
Frankly, I am concerned not so much with the legality of the issue – as much as I am with the huge loss of income the government is suffering. Because of the requirement of payment of 5% TAX, no one is willing to transfer the ownership of vehicles – even when the property has changed hands. But the truth is that our country needs to collect – even the smallest of TAX or FEE.
This is one quixotic case for the record books: a case of the government wanting to collect vast amounts of TAX but losing huge amounts of income through none-realization of FEE. There are thousands who have chosen not to transfer the ownership because it is unreasonable to pay TAX on something that should not be taxable.
I am one among them.