PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am

Tax sales to beat offshore profit havens

Sally Tang Mei-ching of the League of Social Democrats ('Rich must pay higher tax rate', September 21) is in alignment with US President Barack Obama who wants to increase taxes for America's richest citizens in accordance with a suggestion by billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

Ms Tang also thinks that Hong Kong is a tax haven for tycoons and large companies. In fact, many Hong Kong firms have subsidiaries in offshore havens such as the British Virgin Islands, where there is no profits tax and no capital gains, corporation, sales, gift, inheritance or value added tax. Although there is income tax, the rate is set at zero.

The only purpose of this procedure is to avoid Hong Kong's low tax. If our businessmen are making their income from sales to the Hong Kong marketplace, they should be morally prepared to pay the SAR's taxes and submit to Hong Kong law.

Mr Obama's administration has taken steps to rein in the use, and abuse, of tax havens. It is ironic that it is always the most powerful and wealthy who make the greatest effort to avoid taxes - either personal or corporate.

Many worthies sitting on the election committee for our next chief executive and members of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce are beneficiaries, so it would be naive to expect our government to take similar action to rein in the use of tax havens. Although the British Virgin Islands only has a population of 22,000, it is a major holder of Hong Kong and mainland assets.

Rather than taxing profits, which are easily transported and manipulated, the Hong Kong authorities should tax locally generated corporate sales. This sales tax should be applied progressively, so the greater the sales, the higher the tax rate.

There is no doubt that the major conglomerates oppressively dominate the Hong Kong marketplace, and such a progressive sales tax would help level the playing field for small and medium-sized companies.

I. M. Wright, Happy Valley

Activists are enemies of free speech

I couldn't agree more with Alice Wu ('Uncivil society', September 19). She says that the more we allow antagonistic politics based on 'verbal and physical violence, the more we allow self-righteous bad behaviour to render public discourse meaningless'.

I was appalled by the gate-crashing of the government's forum on the proposed by- election legislation, on September 1, at the Science Museum.

In a free and democratic society, people have every right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and argue. But to stop people speaking because you disapprove of what is being said is not part of a democratic society.

Some protesters used force to gain entry and wore masks and gloves. Through their militant and boorish actions they terrorised members of the audience and guest speakers.

This kind of behaviour inflames public anger.

In one protest at the Legislative Council, a T-shirt [with a June 4, pro-democracy logo] was apparently thrown at Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung. These activists wrap themselves in the flag of righteousness while intensifying assaults on liberty.

They are not effectively furthering their own cause. What they are doing is alienating multitudes of pan-democrats and the majority of law-abiding Hong Kong citizens.

Unintelligent protests put people off and will not lead to the protesters recruiting more supporters to their ranks.

Keith Law Chi-fu, North Point

Not-so-super markets let down the city

Why do people in the developing Asia region have access to large, consistently well-stocked and genuinely competitive supermarkets?

Given its international flavour and the fact that it claims to be Asia's world city, Hong Kong should be setting an example when it comes to the standard of its supermarkets.

However, we have to tolerate small, untidy aisles, a capricious supply chain and substandard checkouts. This is made worse by what appears to be the same goods sold at different prices in shops.

Thailand, Indonesia and the mainland, for example, have purpose-built supermarkets far removed from the ones here.

Surely there is some space available that would allow for this.

There are many wonderful things about Hong Kong, the supermarkets are not one of them.

Justin Hayward, Tai Po

Women-only rail carriages will cut crime

I refer to the letter by Chan Ka-chung ('Women-only carriages a bad policy', September 19).

I do not agree with the argument that it would not be feasible to have female-only carriages on the MTR network. I think such an arrangement could be effective in lowering the number of indecent assaults.

Your correspondent says such carriages would 'degrade women'. However, Japan is a highly developed country and rail operators there have had a segregation policy for many years.

In fact, our railway network has the same problem as Japan - overcrowding. This can lead to misunderstandings. Someone may be accused of a crime because of contact between a male and female passenger that was unavoidable in a congested compartment.

As a frequent user of the MTR, I have seen incidents where a woman has claimed to have been molested but it has turned out to be a mistake. We could prevent such misunderstandings by having female-only carriages.

Some people have argued instead for closed-circuit television cameras to be installed in carriages, but I wonder how effective they would be at detecting an offence in a crowded compartment.

Nor do I accept the argument that there is not enough space to enable the MTR Corporation to have a segregation policy. If all the female passengers used segregated carriages, the rest of the train would be less crowded. The MTR could also improve the frequency of its rush-hour service and remove more seats.

James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi Kok

Time to take less academic approach

I refer to Oliver Gosling's letter ('Test system must be revamped', August 20) in which he said that some academically weak students had difficulty passing examinations.

This puts them at a disadvantage when they are looking for work.

In Hong Kong, employers place too much emphasis on potential employees' academic results, meaning that they more often than not grant job interviews only to those who have done well at school.

There are few job opportunities for the weaker pupils.

Admittedly, academic results do matter when young people are looking for work, but many other factors are more important.

Young people should not be denied the chance to work because they performed poorly at school.

Hong Kong's success lies in the efficient use of human resources.

If more youngsters who had bad exam results were given the chance to realise their full potential, this would help Hong Kong's economy.

This could also lead to a change of attitude, as employers would begin to realise that a young person who had performed badly at school could still have something to offer in the workplace.

Ho Yun-sum, Yuen Long

Buses beat rich men's cars any time

Juan Morales asks why the streets of Wan Chai should be occupied by 'almost empty' buses ('Empty buses a plain denial of reason', September 21). He overlooks an important issue.

Mr Morales admits these buses are not actually empty.

They are carrying some passengers, who may be unable to afford a private car or take a taxi or are civic-minded people who believe the environment is the beneficiary if we all share public transport rather than filling roads with too many vehicles.

A double-decker bus in reality only occupies twice the lane space of the average rich man's monster people carrier.

These private cars usually convey only one or two passengers and may be seen stationary in large numbers in downtown areas, clogging up narrow streets while their drivers take a nap in air-conditioned vehicles with engines idling.

On the other hand, each of Mr Morales' 'almost empty' buses is invariably carrying at least a dozen or so passengers off-peak and more than 100 passengers during peak periods.

Which class of vehicle owner is the real villain here?

P. A. Crush, Sha Tin


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