Social concern groups yesterday said the new proposals to broaden the tax base would only serve to further widen the rich-poor gap. The Society for Community Organisation said it would be wrong for the Government to press ahead with any proposals that would put hard-pressed low-to-middle income earners deeper into the tax net. Spokesman Ho Hei-wah said as recent government figures had found that only the top 20 per cent of earners experienced a rise in income last year, more people, including the middle-class, were in danger of sliding into poverty. 'Reducing personal allowances and concessionary deductions under salaries tax will only add to the pain and suffering of the low-to-middle-income individual and push more of them into destitution,' he said. But committee chairman Moses Cheng Mo-chi said Comprehensive Social Security Assistance payments could be raised to off-set any negative impact on families. He also suggested some form of compensation for those who are not eligible for welfare payments. Mr Ho said it was not a wise move to increase property rates as many middle-class households who bought their own homes since 1991 were now suffering from negative equity. 'To be honest, I don't understand why the committee has not opted to propose a hike in profits tax even though the business community has said it is willing to bear a rise as long as it is reasonable. Instead, the committee has chosen to go down a path that will only worsen the overall situation of income inequality in Hong Kong.' Choi Kin-shing, a researcher at the Social and Economic Policy Institute, said the advisory committee had failed to review the fairness of the Hong Kong tax system. 'The proposed measures such as reducing personal allowances under salaries tax and the goods and service tax are bullying low-income earners because such expenses make up a higher percentage of their income than those of high-income earners.' Mr Choi said by opting for fiscal stability ahead of fairness, the committee's recommendations, if adopted, would lead to more social conflicts and worsening poverty that could cause a severe drop in living standards. Dr Wong Hung, a City University social studies lecturer, said lowering the taxable personal allowance might prove to be a costly exercise. 'What is the point of collecting only $200 of income taxes from a low-income taxpayer when the administration cost in assessing his tax returns may be as high? It is simply not cost-effective,' he said.