Tax Authority Probe / Nothing New in Politics

Businessmen and political activists have always tried to influence government, police, army and Tax Authority appointments. They want a friend, someone who worked for them or went to school with them, to head the authority or be a senior assessor, because then, they will have an open door.

The only difference between one Tax Authority director and the next is his personal strength: Whether, after being appointed, he will bow to the politicians and their associates, or whether he is a strong man who makes only professional appointments.

There have been Tax Authority heads whose every appointment, without exception, was dictated from above, via pressure from the finance minister, businessmen or political activists. They were weak, and everyone knew it - and took advantage of it.

Ordinary workers immediately understood with whom they were dealing. If the head of the system was weak, they would try to gain promotions or raises with the help of influence from outside "fixers." The fixers would then wait patiently until the day when those they helped would be asked to show their "gratitude."

At the Tax Authority, gratitude can be shown in many ways. The organization's top officials, some 50 to 100 staffers, determine the fate of many businesses. They decide how much tax businessmen will pay on major deals. They decide whether tax evasion will end in a fine or in an indictment. They issue pre-rulings on deals that have not yet been concluded and thereby determine whether the deal is worthwhile. In other words, their decisions can make a rich man much richer.

But there have also been Tax Authority directors who did not hesitate to say "no" to everyone - to the union chairmen and the minister's aides and the Prime Minister's Office, and also to businessmen who tried to meddle.

Moreover, there have been many police investigations that opened with a bang, including multiple arrests, but ended in a whimper, without even an indictment.

And it should also be remembered that these are people who determine financial fates, all day, every day, and are therefore exposed to pressure, intimidation and threats. Thus the whole story could be a frame-up, or simply good-faith actions with no criminal intent.

Therefore, they must be considered completely innocent unless and until the contrary is proved in court.