SBY opens first tax office
for RI billionaires

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially commenced Wednesday the operation of the nation’s first tax office  designed to serve only the country’s billionaires.

Yudhoyono, who has also submitted his tax return before the March  31 deadline, was accompanied by several noted businessmen who may be included in the 1,200 wealthy taxpayers managed by the new office.  

They included Gemala Group chairman Sofjan Wanandi, television kingpin Harry Tanoesoedibjo, hotelier Hariadi Sukamdani, businesswoman Mien Uno, PT Indomobil  Sukses Makmur president director Gunadi Shindunata and Salim Group and PT Indofood Sukses Makmur top brass Fransiscus Welirang.

It remains unclear, however, whether Yudhoyono is on the office’s richest list.

Located on Jl. Ridwan Rais No. 5A-7 in Central Jakarta, the new tax office is far from being as luxurious  as many have expected earlier.

“It (the office) is good for the state. But I told the President he should also include ex-state officials and state officials who are very wealthy too,” said Sofjan.

Sofjan believed the office would enable tax officials to  accurately reevaluate assets and the exact amount of wealth of the businessmen  and rich government officials.

The Finance Ministry’s director general for taxation Darmin Nasution said that the 1,200 rich taxpayers list pooled by the office, included some government officials from business backgrounds.

“High-ranking state officials who happen to also be businessmen are also included,” he said, refusing to name the officials due to regulations that kept any information on taxpayers highly confidential.

It has been widely known that Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Aburizal Bakrie and Industry Minister Fahmi Idris were noted businessmen before taking office.

The office has listed billionaires permanently residing in Jakarta.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the new office would provide the richest clients with better services as well as monitoring.

“Unlike in many developed countries, the contribution of corporate income tax in Indonesia is far higher than individual income tax. We’ll try to increase that of individual taxpayers with this office,” she said.

Mulyani has said the main aim of the office was to track better  the wealth of the billionaires and prevent them from evading their taxes.

Yudhoyono applauded Mulyani’s daring efforts in overhauling and rooting out corruption in the tax office, including  setting up the new office.

“The reform in the tax office has increased state earnings. Thank you for your (Mulyani and Darmin)  hard work,” said Yudhoyono who is lately becoming closer to Mulyani, triggering envy among other ministers.  

Yudhoyono said tax revenue  collected by the tax office was on an  upward trend after the reform;  Rp 358 trillion (US$28.74 billion) in 2006; Rp 426.2 trillion in 2007; and then Rp 571.1 trillion in 2008.

“Last year, we posted a surplus of Rp 37 trillion, or around 6 percent higher than the target,” he said.

Reform at the tax office has included, the amendment of several tax laws, improvements in  processing of business  at the tax office, implementation of new information-technology systems, increasing the competence and welfare of tax officials, and improved development of organizational structure.

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