Auditing the taxman

Jakarta Post – March 1, 2023

Jakarta – The ramifications of a recent assault involving a Jakarta university student have extended far beyond what anyone could have expected, with the case eliciting public calls to boycott this year's income taxes because the suspect was the wealth-flexing son of a high-level tax officer.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani has taken steps to contain the damage. On Sunday, she made the unprecedented move of instructing taxation director general Suryo Utomo to explain the details and provenance of his wealth to the public.

However, such initiatives will be useless if no systematic strategy follows. Next time a tax officer is accused of abusing power for riches and luxury, these same ad hoc measures will likely be repeated to put out the fire, but the culture of corruption will carry on.

In November 2019, Suryo filed a wealth report with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in which he disclosed Rp 14.4 billion (US$94,3458) in assets. The figure is only one fourth of the wealth of his subordinate, Rafael Alun Trisambodo, who has come under public scrutiny after his 20-year-old son, Mario Dandy, was arrested for allegedly assaulting teenager David Ozora.

Through his social media account, Mario had flaunted his family's lavish lifestyle, including his possession of a Jeep Rubicon car and Harley Davidson bike. The police have seized the Jeep as evidence, as Mario is accused of having changed its license plate before allegedly abducting David.

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