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June 24, 2017

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Gov't mulls imposing defense tax: MND

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The government is currently studying the feasibility of imposing a national defense surcharge in an attempt to increase the defense budget to boost voluntary military transformation, Defense Minister Yen Ming (嚴明) confirmed yesterday.

"The Executive Yuan and the Ministry of Finance (MOF) are currently studying the possibility of imposing a 'national defense surcharge,'" Yen said yesterday.

Yen noted that income generated from the surcharge will be used to support a defense fund to financially assist the government's ongoing plan to transform the existing conscription system into a full voluntary one.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the MOF are currently in talks to come up with more details of the surcharge proposal, he said. But who needs to pay the surcharge or when the policy will officially hit the road has yet to be finalized, Yen said.

The minister made the remarks when asked by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) at the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee to comment on the issue yesterday.

The opposition party lawmaker said that she personally supports the proposal so that the debt-ridden government can support the major transformation.

But she demanded that the military and MOF disclose more details on the project.

Anther DPP lawmaker, Hsueh Ling (薛凌), however, said she has contacted the MOF and the ministry has denied that it is planning such a project.

In response, Yen said the discussion is ongoing and related government units have yet to make a final decision or put the proposal down on paper.

Meanwhile, Lt. General Chen Chi (陳麒), head of the Comptroller Bureau of the MND, said yesterday that there are precedents of similar surcharges imposed by the R.O.C. Government.

In 1962, the then-ruling Kuomintang administration had imposed a national defense surcharge, he noted.

Voluntary Military Transformation Difficult

The government originally expected to abolish the existing conscription system and replace it with a full voluntary one by Jan. 1, 2015, according to a timetable previously announced by the MND.

However, the government has had difficulty in financially supporting the transformation on time due to the global economic downturn and budget shortages.

The military has also faced difficulties in convincing Taiwanese youths to join the armed forces.

These obstacles have hindered the country's ultimate goal of creating an all-volunteer force on schedule.

The military and related government units announced last September to postpone the all-volunteer military launch date by two years to Jan. 1, 2017.

The transformation means Taiwanese males born after Jan. 1, 1994 no longer need to undergo compulsory military service. Instead, they only need to take part in four months of military training.

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