Pakistan’s Tax-Collecting Transsexuals

By Michael Van Duisen on Sunday, December 15, 2013
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“It is commonly and, I believe, accurately said of Pakistan that her women are much more impressive than her men.” —Salman Rushdie, Shame

In A Nutshell

Faced with one of the lowest income tax filing rates in the developed world, Pakistan has had to resort to extreme measures to increase revenue. One of their ideas involves shaming tax evaders by sending transsexuals to their doors, in order to shame them into paying since transsexuals carry a stigma in the country. The program has been shown to be successful, bringing back over 10 times the original cost.

The Whole Bushel

With a revenue shortfall of nearly $5 million, a group known as the Clifton Cantonment board decided to put forth what has been called the “nuclear option” in order to collect taxes from those who refuse to pay. Utilizing an underrepresented (and often persecuted) group of people known as “hijras” or “TGs,” they began using shame and embarrassment in order to convince the delinquents to mend their ways.

As a whole, Pakistan has one of the lowest rates of income tax collection in the developed world, with only about a million Pakistanis paying their share, out of 170 million. Transsexuals face persecution in the country, as they do in many others, and it can get quite extreme in some cases. (A group of transsexual wedding dancers was raped by police in 2009, prompting a number of legal changes designed to expand their rights.)

Many transsexuals turn to prostitution as a last resort, as the stigma they face hinders their ability to live a normal life. However, the stigma is being put to good use in this case, as the tax evaders often pay up, rather than deal with their neighbors’ stares. So far, the program has been extremely successful, bringing back 10 times its original investment; however, it is just a small drop in the bucket compared to the shortfall the country faces.

Show Me The Proof

NY Times: Pakistan Hires Transgender Workers to Shame Tax Delinquents
The Guardian: Pakistan’s tax dodgers pay up when the hijra calls