September 1st, 2011
09:23 AM GMT
Beijing, China (CNN) – About 60 million people today in China will no longer have to pay income taxes. Beijing raised the minimum levels for taxation, reflecting the growing paychecks – and prices - for average Chinese.
Rather than rejoice, Chinese netizens are howling about new tax regulations that impact couples seeking to marry. More galling is a new interpretation of tax law that says employees must now pay taxes on gifts of seasonal cakes – popular boxes of “mooncakes” traditionally given out for China’s mid-Autumn Festival in September – from their employers.
China raised the minimum income-tax threshold to 3500 yuan (USD 541) after pension, insurance and housing costs are deducted. The minimum taxable income was 2,000 yuan (USD 307). The move is aimed to help lower income families and boost consumption.
But latest version of China’s Marriage Law, which took effect Aug. 13, stirred much controversy across the nation as many complain the new law favors men over women.
According to interpretations of the previous law, property was divided down the middle in divorce cases. Now the new law says property belongs only to the person whose name is on the deed, often the husband – so many Chinese women now fear they’ll lose everything if their name isn’t on the deed.
At the same time, some cities are making it more difficult for couples to add a spouse’s name to the deed. For example, In Nanjing, capital of Southeastern Jiangsu Province, an “adding name tax” was announced last Tuesday invited much criticism. The local Taxation Bureau explained that "if another name is added to the property ownership certificate, that means the property's ownership has changed” and have to pay a tax equal to 3% of the house’s value. Cities like Chengdu, Wuhan and Qingdao have similar laws.
According to local press reports, the “adding name tax” is a cause of conflict at home; for those who have just got married and are going through purchasing processes, the sudden change of regulation has brought confusion and anger.
A commentary in state-run media said the new law demonstrates how the privatization of property is gaining priority in China, bringing significant changes in legal development and challenges to the public.
Meanwhile, a report in Beijing’s Legal Mirror newspaper raised a national controversy when it said employees need to pay taxes for the mooncakes handed out by employers this month as an “in-kind benefit.”
The report angered netizens. “Mooncake Tax” quickly became a popular phrase on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. One posted survey on the tax generated 20,000 responses, with 92% opposing.
Wrote @Jiazi: “Adding name tax, moon cake tax. Can some expert tell us, compared to the feudalism society in ancient China where the taxes were more horrifying than a tiger, are we paying more taxes or less now?”
“Laws are always targeting the poor people. Some people spend more than ten thousands on a single meal without paying taxes,” wrote @UFO29082030. “But the poor people need to pay tax for just a few moon cakes. Haven’t the moon cakes makers paid taxes already?”
“I’m wondering, for those government officials, are they paying tax for the government cars or petrol? Are they paying taxes for their business tour in China and around the world?” added @Troubleyouxi.
CNN’s Xiaoni Chen, Tian Shao and Haolan Hong contributed to this report
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