Actually, we have been talking about introducing a new, fairer tax system since the days when "someone" was Finance Minister in 1990s but I guess he had other ambition and priorities.
It stayed as nothing more than mere talk till one day in 2013.
On 29 August 2013 in Securities Commission, Treasurer General Tan Sri Irwan Serigar's announcement set off a media frenzy and those of us who were there saw journalists and analysts busy typing on their smartphones.
I can still recall the exact words. Tan Sri said, "GST is a must, no longer an option."
Ever since then, there are so many tax experts and web portals out there explaining about GST. I did a quick search and found the following links. Some are newcomers with easy to understand graphics:
a) www.apaitugst.com (newbie and trilingual, makes you understand from the simplest perspective)
b) www.gst.customs.gov.my (all that you need to know, textbook-ish)
There's no excuse in terms of implementation or knowledge. Every single piece of info, in whatever form, they are all out there.
From the point that it was formally announced in Parliament in Oct 2013 till today in March 2015, the entire economy and population had more than 500 days or 17 months to learn about GST and to adjust to the forthcoming GST.
It is either you want to do it and understand it, or you just can’t be bothered and prefer to be abusive and grumpy.
Over the past week, I saw and heard so many excited chatter among friends and relatives about the holiday they just booked in MATTA Fair and when the conversation moved on to politics, it was all guns blazing at GST.
It shows how ignorant we Malaysians are. The countries that you are traveling to have GST too, you know? China’s GST rate is at 17%, Korea (10%), Indonesia (10%), Thailand (7%), Vietnam (10%). Even Burkina Faso and Burundi have GST!
A total of 6.3 billion people lives under a GST regime in the 169 countries. Surely, there’s a reason why countries implement this tax system.
In Malaysia, we have over 6 mil registered taxpayers but only less than 2 mil actually pay taxes. We have over 500,000 registered tax paying companies but less than 110,000 pay taxes,
Any country in our position would have thought about GST. But it wasn't an easy move for the Government in today’s political climate.
The Government had to give something back in return for people to accept GST and these are not small sums. Take a look:
(a) Government will abolish the Sales and Services Tax (SST). And did you know that in 2014, Government received RM17.8 bil from SST? They are gonna lose this.
(b) Those who earn RM4,000 per month and below will no longer need to pay income tax. For the rest, it will be a 1-3% reduction in tax rate. The Government received RM26.7 bil in 2014 and just a 2% reduction means the Government is letting go RM530 million.
(c) Government is reducing corporate, cooperative and SME income taxes. In 2014, the Government received RM68 bil. At 1% reduction, that's another RM680 million gone from Government revenue.
Welfare and cash handouts have also gone up. Just BR1M alone costs the Government RM4.9 bil for over 7 mil people.
We have not even touched public hospitals and education costs borne by the Government. They are not cheap. Medical services and facilities cost the Government RM23.3 bil per year.
Government must pay these bills. How?
There’s no other option but to re-engineer the wealth of the society and channel taxes from high end consumers back to the bottom 40% households. The more you consume, the more you pay, the more the Government has to give back to the bottom 40% households.
GST is a must, no longer an option.