Opinion leaders believe the proposal will be back on the table in next five years Most people believe the government has not given up on the idea of a goods and services tax and that it is only a matter of time before a sales levy is introduced, according to a poll. More than half, or 56 per cent, of respondents believe the government will revive the plan for a GST in the next five years, with 36 per cent saying it would be introduced, but not within five years. About 8 per cent said it would never be introduced. Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen shelved a GST consultation last month after the government found it did not have majority support for the tax. The survey of 690 opinion leaders, conducted by SCMP/TNS last month, found that 54 per cent of respondents agreed with the government's decision to shelve the consultation, while 26 per cent were opposed to it. Sixty-three per cent said one reason for shelving GST was the poor public response, while 60 per cent believed the chief executive election was a reason. Eighteen per cent believed the consultation was shelved due to pressure from Beijing. Asked to rate the government's performance in the GST consultation out of a possible 10, most respondents said the administration's performance was poor. They gave an average 3.6 points out of 10, while half the respondents gave 1 to 3 points to the administration. The popularity of the chief executive and the financial secretary plunged after the GST proposal was released, but their ratings strongly rebounded after the tax was shelved. Tim Lui Tim-leung, an accountant and a former member of the advisory committee on new broad-based taxes, said he believed Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen would not introduce a GST again during his administration even though the tax was the best way of widening the city's tax base. 'It will make society more politicised,' he said. Two-thirds of opinion leaders believe now is the right time to consider tax reform. Respondents gave 7.9 points out of 10 to the idea that the administration should review government functions and roles. They said the government should reduce its spending. Meanwhile, political groups urged the government to introduce tax concessions in the forthcoming budget address. Accountants expect the administration will see a surplus of more than HK$25 billion. Terence Chong Tai-leung, an economics professor at Chinese University, said a proposed green tax was more of a political tool than an effective way of broadening the tax base. Opinion leaders are concerned about the problems of an ageing population, with 66 per cent of respondents agreeing that the city needs to widen its tax base to meet the challenge. Some 56 per cent of respondents agreed that an alternative tax base should make room for a reduction in taxes for existing taxpayers. The poll found that 62 per cent of respondents were willing to accept a reduction in salaries tax of 10 per cent or less as compensation for the introduction of new levies, while 20 per cent said they did not require a cut. The SCMP/TNS survey polled opinion leaders and business decision makers aged 25 or older with a household income of HK$40,000 or more.