By Joachim Ng
The national treasury is quite bare with RM1 trillion in debt. Fortunately, patriotic citizens are pouring money into Tabung Harapan to help ease the nation’s financial burden. Even RM1 is okay. If every working person were to give RM1 today, RM15 million would be received by midnight.
Some 2000 years ago, Jesus observed a poor widow put two copper coins into a collection box at a temple. They would have been worth a combined two sen, like our own defunct 1 sen copper coin. But Jesus gathered his disciples around and praised the widow for donating out of her poverty. In Jesus’ words “she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford.”
A systematic collection was the tithe dating back a thousand years before Jesus. Farmers and herders — the backbone of pre-industrial economies — were obliged to contribute 10 percent, or what they could afford, of their produce. “Any tithe of the land, from the grain of the land or from the fruit of the trees…” and “All the tithe of herd or flock…” as laid down in the book of Leviticus. In the book of Deuteronomy: “You must be certain to tithe all the produce of your seed that comes from the field year after year… and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.” The amount was optional as stated in Deuteronomy: “Every one of you must give as you are able.”
The book of Malachi acclaimed tithing as the way to achieve wealth surplus and respectability. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land.” The tithe was an effective public revenue source as it worked on the 90:10 principle that 90% of income earners should each contribute 10%, or what they could afford, of their produce to the national treasury. The people gave willingly because of scrupulous honesty in tithe usage to benefit the nation. Wealth flowed like water through the tithing connective network.
Our modern taxation system, however, is an upside-down contortion of the 90:10 tithing principle as all the personal income taxes are contributed by just 15% (or 2.27 million individuals) out of a total registered workforce of 15 million people. There are 12.7 million workers in Malaysia who are either unable or unwilling to pay income tax.
To be continued next issue.