As April looms and the tax man cometh, everyone’s looking for an exemption. But some taxes and exemptions are more defensible than others
Who’s affected: Chinese pastry-lovers
The bottom line: In the midst of last year’s economic downturn, Chinese authorities upped their tax-collection efforts (which are usually notoriously lax) in a bid to top up the state’s coffers. One of their main targets was the mooncake — a pastry stuffed with lotus seed paste and egg yolks, or “whatever the baker feels like chucking in,” that is a ubiquitous delicacy especially popular in the fall.
Mooncakes were traditionally given out during the Mid-Autumn Festival (historically a time of moon worship) to friends and family to cement relationships. But now, many businesses also offer mooncakes to employees or provide coupon vouchers redeemable at local groceries for the treat. Additionally, the cakes are given as a sort of soft bribe to employers, party officials. Where bakers saw a mooncake explosion, government officials saw yuan signs — and launched an inspection of more than 3,100 companies last year, slapping 30 billion yuan worth of back taxes on gifted mooncakes and coupons. In modern China, apparently, you can have your cake and tax it too.
Who’s affected: Online pornographers
The bottom line: The Swedish tax authority has apparently never heard of the phrase “not safe for work.” Last year, the Skatteverket began cracking down on hundreds of online webcam strippers who had neglected to pay income taxes on money received for their services. Dag Hardyson, head of the investigation, told the BBC that initially the agency had difficulty identifying some of the strippers and that automated software failed to adequately target the culprits, but, “When we investigated the sites manually, it worked better.”
The Skatteverket estimates the lost revenue to be north of 40 million Swedish kronor ($5.56 million). Hardyson’s explanation probably raises more questions than it answers: “They are young girls, we can see from the photos. We think that perhaps they are not well informed about the rules.” Creepy.