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Oral Test 2011

Though you like it or not, taxes are a part of life. Writer Charles Adam's says: "Governments have been taxing income in many ways as long as there has been civilized life". Taxes have often aroused resentment and have sometimes sparked revolt. The ancient Britons fought the Romans, saying: how much better to have been killed than to go about with a tax on our heads! In France, hatred of the Gabelle, a salt tax, helped spark the French revolution, during which tax collectors were guillotined. Tax revolts also played a role in the U.S. war of independence, fought against England.

Not surprisingly, resentment against taxes continues to this day. Experts say that in developing countries tax systems are often "inefficient" and "unfair". According to one researcher, there is an impoverished African country that had "over 300 local taxes, the administration of which was impossible even with the best of capacities. Proper collection and monitoring mechanisms are either nonexistent or not applied, creating opportunities for misuse". BBC news reported that in one Asian country, "local officials imposed dozen of... illegal charges to increase the local finances or to pad their own packets".

The gap between rich and poor fuels the fires of resentment say the UN publication "Africa recovery": "One of the many economic differences between developed and developing countries is that developed countries subsidize farmers while developing countries tax farmers..."

Governments argue that taxes are a necessary evil, the price to pay for a "civilized society". Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, it is undeniable that the price paid is usually a high one.

Taxes can be divided into two categories: direct and indirect. Corporate tax is fixed, whereas income tax is progressive. The more you earn the more tax you pay. Critics argue that progressive taxes punish hard work and success. Indirect taxes include sale taxes, taxes on liquor and cigarettes, and customs duties.

Adapted from Awake! 2003

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