Donald Tsang Yam-kuen hinted yesterday at the possibility of widening tax bands when the next budget is unveiled in February, saying Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah would make the 'best decision'. But the chief executive said he could not give a pledge ruling out tax increases during his five-year term, despite his announcement of tax cuts in his policy address on Wednesday. Mr Tsang promised to lower the rates for profits and standard salaries taxes, each by 1 percentage point to 16.5 and 15 per cent, respectively, in the 2008-09 financial year. Property rates for the last quarter of this financial year will be waived. In an interview jointly hosted by three radio stations yesterday, Mr Tsang was asked if he could pledge not to raise the tax rate during his term. 'I can't say yes. But if our forecast turns out correct - that is, if the short- and mid-term economic growth is satisfactory in these few years - there will not be a need for a big move [in tax rate],' he said, adding that it would ultimately depend on the financial secretary's evaluation of the economy. Mr Tsang stressed that any increase in the tax rate should only be carried out cautiously if there was a real need. Otherwise, people would not be convinced. During the phone-in programme, the chief executive was challenged by a caller over why he had decided only to cut the standard tax rate, but not rates of all salaries tax bands, benefiting merely those who earned the highest salaries. 'The standard tax rate is only a headline. After adjusting the standard tax rate, other details including tax bands will be considered by the financial secretary. I believe he will make the best decision in the light of the fiscal situation,' said Mr Tsang. Although Mr Tsang said in his policy address that the economy had fully recovered from the slump brought about by the Asian financial crisis and Sars pandemic, he cautioned yesterday that now was an inopportune time to take steps to broaden the tax base. 'When there is a surplus, I believe citizens would have strong opposition against any proposal of tax reform. This is not an easy problem to solve. It is generally accepted that our tax base is narrow, but the appropriate time to take action depends on citizens' views.' Responding to calls for transport discounts for the disabled, Mr Tsang said the issue was not mentioned in the policy address because there were still issues to be studied. He hoped a decision could be made in one or two months. During a Legislative Council question-and-answer session, Mr Tsang said that a transfer of plot ratio was one proposal under consideration to preserve privately owned heritage buildings. However, he said it was difficult to find suitable neighbouring land sites for transfers, as most private heritage was located in the urban area. Problems with evaluating land sites in different districts may then arise, leading to questions of fairness.