Friday, October 26, 2007

Flaming Peacocks: Double Taxation, The Bane of Overseas Burmese Workers

Double taxation has been a bane for all Burmese citizens working abroad. While the Burmese government has agreements with host countries not to impose double taxation on its people, it is an unwritten regulation that the Burmese continue to pay tax to both the host country and Burma. At least one person in each household is required to pay tax (10% of their income) to the embassy in order to hold travel documents, and renew them; all Burmese passports need to be renewed every three years.

Anyone who needs to renew their passport is required to pay tax or produce proof that he or she is a dependent of a tax payer. Similarly, anyone returning home will have to produce a tax receipt upon arrival in Rangoon, or risk getting the travel documents confiscated.

In order to bypass the agreement with other countries, the Burmese embassy instructs its tax payers to submit a signed proposal to allow him or her to pay tax to the mother land, out of moral obligations. This compulsory double taxation has driven the majority of the Burmese citizens to under-declare their income to the embassies as they struggle to start afresh in foreign countries. Many immigrant families live on single income, and have borrowed heavily in order to secure a passport which they see as a ticket out of hell. Others, more comfortable, detest the idea of giving their hard-earned money to junta.

In January this year, Burmese living in Singapore launched an unsuccessful campaign to protest against double taxation (

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