Wednesday, May 22, 2013

And You Thought the IRS Was Bad?

The world's five most out-of-control tax agencies.

Taxes are a testy subject the world over. The controversies over whether the Internal Revenue Service was politically motivated in screening groups seeking tax-exempt status based on loaded keywords -- and Tuesday's congressional hearing about Apple's alleged tax evasion -- are just the latest manifestations of America's distinct complex about taxation. In the United States, though, at least there are investigations into allegations of political intent; elsewhere, the politicization of the tax system is unambiguous. If the IRS is serious about hounding the political opposition, the agency's got a long way to go -- as these five countries attest.  

The Russian government isn't terribly good at keeping track of tax records -- the Los Angeles Times reported last month that the "government has no idea how about 44% of the country's registered workers are making a living" -- unless, that is, you're the subject of a political investigation. When, in March, the Russian government started investigating NGOs and civil society groups with international funding under its "foreign agents" law, state prosecutors showed up unannounced at the organizations to request tax records. That's still happening; just today, the New York Times reported that the Levada Center, Russia's only independent polling agency, may be forced to close because the government is targeting it with "foreign agent" provisions.

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