This month, a religious moment that plays an important role to maintain the relation between the people and the country, mainly for the Muslims, takes place. It is the closing of Ramadan that marks the celebration of Eid Al Fitr, the glorious day that gives the believers a chance of returning to the fitrah or the pure humane nature.
Certainly, this moment is related to a set of worshipping activities conducted by the Muslims. One of the activities is zakat. In religious context, zakat is the realization of a person’s empathy to the people in the area who are economically and socially lacking. In the national context, the concept of zakat is also applied in the modern taxation system globally, including Indonesia.
As stated by Masdar Farid Masudi (2005), zakat, in its development, has been deemed as an institutional administrative by many, not only a mere spiritual commitment. Since zakat was mandated 14 centuries ago, the object of zakat has been developed, not only for certain kind of income that is zakat-obliged.
Zakat is perceived as the obligation of a person to God and, similarly to tax, closely related to social responsibility. Zakat is understood as an obligation that has to be obeyed. At the same place, it is also as the will of God that has to be sincerely accepted.
Therefore, it is fair if the Government—in this case, the tax authority—uses moral to spiritual (religious) approach to arouse and enhance the Taxpayer’s obedience. The religious approaches have been used to change the Taxpayer’s paradigm that mainly considers tax as a forced demand instead of seeing it as a basic obligation of each citizen.
Tax is a tool for the State to conduct income distribution and development equalization, which can be defined differently according to the approach. From religious perspective, tax is truly a worship facility that can be equal to zakat or charity donation paid consciously for mutual benefit.
The benefit of tax covers wider area compared to zakat or religious donation because the advantage can be felt by all layers of lower society without taking into account the religion, ethnic, skin color, or economy status background.
The domination of tax as the source of state’s revenue is indeed unnegotiable. This condition creates a chronic dependency on most countries in the world to the tax revenue, including Indonesia. However, the low level of Taxpayer’s obedience is the problem for the tax authorities, especially in Indonesia.
Based on the data of Directorate General of Taxes (DGT), currently, the number of Taxpayers registered is of 38.6 million. The number is very biased if compared to the number of the people having income or work recorded Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS). Per February 2018, it reached 127.07 million.
The inequality of the taxpayer’s data is also reflected by the ratio of tax revenue to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or tax ratio that was recorded only of 10.9% by the end of 2017. Such number is still too low in comparison with the tax ratio of n e i g h b o r i n g countries in Asia and still far from the target the Government wants to achieve in 2018, which is 14% of GDP.
V a r i o u s efforts to raise the citizen’s awareness to pay tax have and will always be strived by the Government, starting from the subtle to harsh approach. Among others, the action recently taken is to grant tax amnesty. The antithesis of the policy is to issue the threat of force body penalty (gijzeling) and travel ban for Taxpayers that have not paid their tax.
The problem of tax revenue is not supposed to be this serious if all parties are having the same perspective on the existence of tax, which is as a tool to enhance the wealth of the society.
There are several factors affecting the tax perception in the eye of the people. One of which is the rampant corruption of taxpayer’s money cases, as expressed by the Director General of Taxes for 2011-2015 period Fuad Rahmany
Morality in Tax
The effort to build the awareness through religious approach is not a sin because almost all of religious teachings acknowledge the concept of tax or obligatory contribution by the believers to the leaders or to those rightful.
A few months ago, the citizen are shocked by the leaflets distributed by DGT. The leaflets contained a quite sensitive content because it quoted several paragraphs from the holy book. The message contained in the leaflets was the call for the people to pay tax.
The religious approach is taken to balance the massive campaign of tax compliance through compelling law enforcement. This is an extra effort of the Government that is worth our reflection as religious citizens.
In global taxation perspective, the term tax morality is known. James Alm and Benno Torgler, on their work, Do Ethics Matter? Tax Compliance and Morality, explained that individuals do not always behaving selfish and selfinterested.
Human behavior is also influenced by the aspects of morality, social norms, fairness, or other factors that can be said as ethics. Through these ethics, human behavior can be directed to increase the tax compliance.
M e a n w h i l e , Mohammad Rifky (2013) wrote that tax morality is closely related to the faith of the Taxpayers to the Government and their nationalism. In this case, the faith is related to public service, trust to the leader, and a fair tax administration.
Returning to the Fitrah
Every year, there are always religious rituals that actually remind every individual of the importance of keeping the balance of empathy as a God’s creature and a social being. Eid Al Fitr and any holy festivities are supposed to be the momentum for all of the people to go back to the fitrah by paying zakat, tax, or other mandatory religious donations.
The hope is indeed that the obedience to pay tax and religious donations does not only recur on a holy moment, but the consistency to do so is to be maintained whenever receiving an income.
As the number of the citizen paying tax compliantly and correctly is increasing, more money can be used for development. In the end, all of the parties will gain “victory” just like the personal victory on the holy day. The citizen celebrating the victory will make the country advanced and dignified as aspired by the founding fathers.
Let us perfect our worship by enhancing our social concern to others by making tax as an obligation, not a burden. We wish a happy Eid Al Fitr 1439 H for all Muslims celebrating. May our past wrongdoings be forgiven.