It would shorten processing time for travellers and prevent congestion Using Octopus cards to pay the proposed $18 border tax could shorten the time it takes to process travellers, the government says. In a paper to be discussed at Legco next week, the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau say transport operators in Hong Kong have agreed to collect the border tax to avoid the creation of bottlenecks at the busy border crossings. The paper says that at the Lowu border crossing, it takes an average of 21 seconds for checks to be made on each traveller. But travellers must wait an average of 15 minutes before the clearance begins. It said both the Kowloon-Canton Railway and the company handling the Octopus cards believed it was feasible to collect the proposed tax with Octopus cards. Currently, 80 per cent of travellers on KCR arriving at the Lowu border crossing use Octopus cards. The government has also announced a system will be put in place to crack down on people who try to avoid paying the tax. It has estimated that the administrative cost of the proposed border tax will be between $38 million and $55 million a year. It is believed that the $18 border tax per traveller and $100 levied on each vehicle will raise an extra $1 billion in revenue for the government each year. Former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung proposed the levy on outbound land travellers last year. The planning department forecasts that by 2016, the number of travellers using the land and sea borders will reach 250 million. The number of vehicles is projected to reach 9.7 million. Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen has said economic conditions and public opinion would be taken into account before the government decided whether to proceed with the introduction of a land departure tax. The pro-government Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong has demanded that the $18 levy be scrapped. The Democrats and other parties have also said they will block the bill that seeks to introduce it. DAB chairman Tsang Yok-sing, who is also an Executive Councillor, said that in light of the rising numbers of mainland tourists following the relaxation of travel curbs, the tax should be dropped because it clashes with the policy of encouraging tourism.