Clear up surcharges in doubt

Updated: 2014-11-25 07:29

(China Daily)

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Are the many types of surcharges Chinese residents pay legitimate? Can the government departments that collect such fees give a clear account of how the money they have collected has been used? These are not just questions concerning governing transparency; the lack of a legal basis for many surcharges reflects how far China has to go in governing according to the law.

As an example, every individual has to pay 50 yuan ($8) as an extra fee for the national civil aviation industry development fund for a single domestic flight and 90 yuan for an international one, yet like all but three of the more than 20 surcharges, it is not charged in accordance with State laws.

The education surcharge and its local counterparts are collected according to the Education Law, and the fee for sewage treatment is collected according to the Regulations on Urban Drainage and Sewage Treatment. All the other surcharges, such as the fees for civil aviation development and film industry development are based on documents released by the central or local governments.

Some judicial experts believe that only the National People's Congress, with its Standing Committee as the country's top legislative authority, has the right to decide whether such surcharges should be collected. The NPC and its Standing Committee may also authorize the State Council, the Cabinet, to make a decision about the collection of such surcharges.

If that is the case, most of the existing surcharges are collected without a sound legal base.

In some localities, there is also a large gap between the amount of money a local financial department should have received from the surcharges levied and the actual amount it has received. There is the possibility that some of the money collected has been misused.

It is not a question of whether such surcharges should be collected or not. There may be more than enough reason for most of the surcharges to be collected for the development of a particular industry or to provide a better service to residents.

Rather it is a matter of whether they are collected according to the law and whether the money so collected is managed with enough transparency and used for the right purposes efficiently.

It is said that the law for administrative surcharges is in the pipeline. With pressure mounting for an overhaul of surcharges, such a law is in urgent need.

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