What to do when the locals won’t pay their taxes? Send transgender tax collectors to their homes and shame them into paying.
That’s the strategy by officials in Clifton, a neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan, where tax officials are trying to crack down on an estimated 50 percent of 500,000 residents not paying taxes despite their affluence. Egads! But the tactic is actually an imported one; they borrowed it from India. Of course the method relies on the existing stigmatization of transgender people, and only helps it along.
“Neighbors will come out and say, ‘Oh, what’s happening?’ and the bad name the person will get, this will maybe convince them to pay taxes,” said Aziz Suharwardy, the board’s vice-president. “And that’s exactly what happens.”
The TGs have collected $100,000 in about nine months, 10 times the cost of the program. Still, the TG’s collection barely puts a dent in the board’s $5 million tax revenue shortfall.
Two years ago the Clifton board hired a consultant to employ a more automated system that prevents collectors from pocketing the money they receive. But the employees resisted the computerized system because “their discretion was removed, and discretion is all about money,” said Mr. Suharwardy. He said corruption continues to plague Clifton’s efforts to retrieve taxes.
In a sign of the power of Pakistan’s VIP culture, one collector told me that the TG team recently approached the house of an unknown defaulter. They quickly learned it was the home of the provincial minister of excise and taxation. The team promptly left without creating its usual spectacle to shame the delinquent taxpayer.
But just think about how many jobs are now available to trans Pakistanis as the town boogiemen!