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Value added

It used to be cash or cheque. Then it moved to cash or card. Now the payment lingo has moved up a notch to with invoice or without. I doubt there’s a country in the world (except maybe Switzerland) where the invoice question doesn’t rear its head when it comes to making a purchase. Okay, I’m not talking supermarket stuff; I’m talking services.

You get someone in to paint your house and you pay cash. You get someone to fix your car. Ditto. You go to a flea market or an antique fair and buy some furniture. Same applies. You don’t worry about whether or not they’re paying taxes. That’s their business, not yours. And if you’re one of those strange beings who actually prefer to do things above board, asking for an invoice in some situations can make you look a little deranged. I know. I’ve had the look…the look that is usually accompanied by raised eyebrows and a snort of derision. Well, of course you can have an invoice… if you really want one.

And the cogwheels turn. Why would anyone want to willingly pay the tax due (in Hungary, the valued added tax, familiar to all as áfa, is a whopping 27%), if it’s possible to get can get away with not paying it? The world is rife with tax evaders. Take out the bad boys (and girls), the ones for whom greed is the bottom line and lining their pockets at the expense of the nation is their end goal, and then ask why people choose to evade their taxes.

Because they’re ridiculously high? Because the money paid in taxes doesn’t go where it should go? Because people simply can’t afford to pay the full whack? Because it’s difficult, if impossible, to turn any sort of meaningful profit if you do it all by the book?

I’m not a taxation specialist. I lay no claim to understanding the economics of it all. But it would seem to me that if VAT and the accompanying taxes are so high, then a country should have a great infrastructure, a grade A healthcare system, and an education system that is world class. But sadly this is rarely the case. Is it a mission impossible? Winston Churchill might have been right in his contention that ‘for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle’.

And if high taxes are putting people off paying them, why not lower the taxes so that everyone who should be paying pays. And if someone wants to do it all by the book, then why penalise them for their efforts?

Yes…you’ve guessed. I’ve noticed the new BKV charges.

The price of a monthly travel pass has been reduced to 9500 huf (~€31 / $42). Great news, I thought. What’s to complain about? But if you want an invoice…then you get to pay 10,500 huf (€35/$47).  The mind boggles.

valueaddedFirst published in the Budapest Times 17 January 2014