Can’t fight city hall is an idiom for any futile effort against a large institution like government. If you’re just one among millions of citizens who has a complaint about a government law or regulation, chances are you’d be unsuccessful, if not dismissed at the start.
Paying taxes and fees to the Philippine government is an example where this idiom holds true. No matter how much anyone would disagree with the rules, we’re compelled to comply. Else we get slapped with penalties or worse, criminal litigation.
- The Philippine Land Transport Office (LTO), the agency that oversees automobile transportation, just let out new rules for motorists renewing their driver’s licenses. The applying motorist has to watch a five (5) hour streaming video and then take a test before he or she could go to the nearest LTO office to do the renewal of license. Many people have protested against the new rules but it looks like the LTO won’t budge. Many have resigned to watching the five (5) hours and taking the test otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get their renewed licenses;
- The Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue audited and assessed a small enterprise for additional taxes and penalties. Despite presenting all the paperwork requested, the BIR disallowed a significant portion of expenses the enterprise claimed for deductions. As much as the enterprise’s accountant tried to explain that the expenses were legitimate and that some of the BIR’s tax computations were wrong, the BIR pressed the enterprise to pay a large penalty. The enterprise owners decided to pay up rather than go through a lengthy legal fight;
- A city government’s Idle Land Tax division assessed a property owner for unpaid “idle land taxes.” The city notified the owner that he didn’t pay the idle land tax for the past ten (10) years. (The idle land tax is a surcharge for land that has no improvements or is unused). When the property owner met with the Idle Land Tax supervisor, he explained that he has been going to the city hall’s Land Tax office every year to get a tax assessment of his properties but not once has he received a bill for idle land tax. The Idle Land Tax supervisor replied that was because the Idle Land Tax office is separate from the Land Tax office and that the property owner should have gone to the former to get the assessment. The property owner asked how come the Idle Land Tax assessment was separate from the ones from the Land Tax? The Idle Land Tax supervisor said that was because the computer system integrating both offices hadn’t been set up then (never mind that both offices sits side by side each other). The property owner fully paid the Idle Land Tax.
Government bureaucrats argue that it is the duty of citizens to find out for themselves how much taxes they owe. Ignorance cannot be an excuse.
There are literally millions of ordinary people, small business proprietors & enterprises who had gone through similar experiences. Government sets a rule, slaps taxes & fees, citizens grumble & complain about the inefficiencies, the lack of logic, the unjustified amount, and/or the poor service. But we end up complying & paying.
As the Borg would say: resistance is futile.