Why Can’t HMRC be as creative as the Indian tax authorities? Rubbish and Eunuchs.
We all know someone who doesn’t pay their taxes, and gloats about their cleverness/slipperiness/intellectual superiority in getting one over on the taxman. Of course, we could shop him to the anonymous tax evaders department, or we could just grumble about it.
HMRC itself has other powers at its disposal. It can send in bailiffs to collect dues and offenders can even go to prison for wilful avoidance. The taxman has sent many an individual/company/football club to the knackers yard.
But this method of tax collection is pretty dull and staid. No-one gets any enjoyment out of boring legal proceedings. Better to take a leaf out of India’s book, where municipal tax authorities are instead seeking to embarrass people into paying up.
In 2006, the state of Bihar employed eunuchs to collect unpaid taxes. Eunuchs are feared and reviled in many parts of India, where some believe they have supernatural powers.
Accompanied by police officers, the eunuchs approached shopkeepers and large defaulters , gathering outside their shops or homes and sang "to embarrass" them into paying their dues. "Pay the tax, pay the Patna Municipal Corporation tax," the eunuchs sang, melodiously*.
The eunuchs collected about 400,000 rupees on their first day of work, authorities said, sharing 16,000 rupees (£188) amongst themselves, but the scheme was discontinued after some time following public protests.
Now, officials in the city of Patna, Bihar’s capital have come up with a new way to embarrass defaulters into paying up. Detractors of the scheme think it’s rubbish, but we think it shows genuine ingenuity and a healthy dash of irony.
The taxman dumped heaps of stinking garbage outside a shopping complex to penalise its owner for evading taxes. Three truckloads of rubbish were emptied outside the complex in Kankerbagh as the complex owner had not paid taxes for 12 years.
Patna is one of India's filthiest cities with stinking piles of rubbish literally found in every nook and cranny. The Municipal Corporation officials often express their inability to clean the city because of staff shortages and poor resources. All they need for a cleaner city could be the unpaid tax totalling 164,000 rupees ($3,175/£2,052) from Avinash Kumar, the proprietor of the JP Market complex.
The stunt certainly caused a stir, but many local people thought it was, well, crap. "Why should people, who pay their taxes regularly, have to suffer the stench of garbage on the road?" Rajesh Kumar told the BBC. "The stinking filth is unbearable and it forced us to remain indoors for the whole day on Tuesday."
After a public outcry, the garbage was removed from the area where it had been dumped.
The municipal authority says it will no longer use "such unusual ways" to collect tax dues "We've abandoned the exercise for the time being," an official said, "but please ask those defaulters where in the law is it written that they can live in the city, do their business and not pay municipal taxes?" he asked.
* it might not have been melodious. But we like to think it was.