Tai Ji Men and the Fiscal Justice against a spiritual movement in Taiwan

As European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) and myself as a human rights lawyer have witnessed and have been dealing with cases of discrimination against religious and spiritual minorities and their members too.

More than once fiscal and tax issues have been used by governments to the detriment of some groups in order to stop their activities, for instance, when the groups where growing too fast or when they were disliked by the authorities.

At times these groups are denied the tax exempt status, if such a system is implemented in the country, or the status is revoked after being enjoyed for some time.

This has happened also in Western countries, not only outside Europe as someone may think.

Taiwan is now a full democracy whose present status stems from a complicate past; but after all, the times of martial law have gone since long.

Taiwan is a great country that I was glad to visit more than once, and where I had also the pleasure to teach a course on Human Rights, Minority Law and Freedom of Religion and Belief at Soochow University, back in 2012.

I was impressed by the cultural, religious and spiritual diversity of Taiwan where, in the same building, worship places of different religions can be found. One next to the other. Literally.

The tax case involving the Tai Ji Men community has lasted for far too long. In fact even though all the tax claims have been erased in Court, and no claim should exist anymore, however a tax claim for year 1992 is still maintained by the Tax Office despite the Court judgments in favour of Tai Ji Men, and which risks to damage Tai Ji Men, after having cost them millions Taiwanese dollars in trials costs.

The ongoing TJM case is unacceptable generally speaking, and also very difficult to understand from a legal point-of-view.

Basing on the legal principle of “Estoppel”, it cannot be argued or asserted that Tai Ji Men have to pay taxes for the disputed year 1992 as there should be no dispute at all, being this a clear contradiction, especially, if we take into account the other principle of “legitimate expectation” (or legal certainty) according to which those who act in good faith on the basis of law as it is or seems to be, should not be frustrated in their expectations.

As European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) and I personally hope and wish that this case can be concluded in the best possible way, honouring Tai Ji Men and also honouring Taiwan’s democratic achievements and commitments for the safeguard of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Our expectation is that Taiwan will honour these principles and by complying with them will finally fully meet all legal expectations of Tai Ji Men in this matter.

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