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Vehicle Taxes Lucrative for Corrupt Officials: Group

A watchdog organization says the Ministry of Economy and Finance's tax collectors are bilking the country out of at least a million dollars a year by overcharging for annual vehicle stickers.

There are more than 2.5 million vehicles registered in Cambodia, and if tax collectors take only 2,000 riel, or about $0.50, in bribers per vehicle, those figures start to add up. And annually. Vehicle owners are supposed to pay for an annual registration sticker in order to drive.

“The majority of vehicle owners are forced to pay extra money during the annual tax collection,” Vorn Pao, president of the Independent Democratic of Informal Economic Association, or IDEA, told reporters Monday.

The costs set by the tax collection officials go against the ministry where they work, he added.

“Tax agents forced me to pay 6,000 riel [about $1.50], instead of the state price of 4,500 riel,” Ly Sao, a 37-year-old motorcycle taxi driver in Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer. “I was very disappointed by this payment, because the tax agents demanded extra money.”

“That extra money affects my daily living, because my business as a driver is now very difficult,” he said, blaming the economic downturn on lost fares. “In a day I earn only 30,000 riel [about $7], to supply my family and for my two children at school. So the extra pay sinks my living.”

Var Sanith, a 35-year-old cane juice and bread vender in the capital's Chamkarmon district, said he wasn't hurt badly by paying the extra money, “but it is an illegal act.”

“I have a bad feeling about it, because it is a bad habit that hurts Cambodian society's prestige,” he said. “We should eliminate this bad thing.”

Sok Vong, a truck driver, said he gets hit with an annual tax, plus extra fees to the tax office, plus demands from police as he drives on the road.

“If I do not pay them, they won't allow me to go ahead,” he said. “Both cases dominate my daily living.”

The fresh accusations of corruption came after the tax collection department of the Ministry of Finance issued a notice last week, saying vehicle owners would only be required to pay taxes according to a vehicle tax table.

People who have been asked for more money than appears on the table are encouraged to take down the agent's ID number and report him or her. San Chey, a member of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, said the public can use a hotline to report corrupt tax agents, by calling 017 559 122.