A roadside bomb killed three U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday. You can always count on death, as Ben Franklin ruefully noted. And in Afghanistan, it seems, you can always count on taxes. Being screwed up. Big time.
Just check out the title of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko’s report released Tuesday:
Taxes: Afghan Government Has Levied Nearly a Billion Dollars in Business Taxes on Contractors Supporting U.S. Government Efforts in Afghanistan
Now following the bouncing ball:
— We invade Afghanistan and overthrow a cruel fundamentalist regime and help install a corrupt government in its place.
— We’ve spent about $90 billion trying to build a tribal nation torn apart by 30 years of war.
— We strike an agreement with the Afghan government to exempt U.S. contractors helping to rebuild the country from certain Afghan taxes.
— The Afghan government has demanded that some of these taxes be paid anyway.
— “As a result of the outstanding assessments, the [Afghan] MOF [Ministry of Finance] has restricted contractors’ freedom of movement and refused to renew business licenses, and the Afghan government has even arrested some contractor personnel.
— “The combined effect is the potential interruption of support to U.S. military operations.”
The report makes it sounds as if the Kabul government is whip-smart when it comes to plucking tax revenues from poor ol’ U.S. companies. Neither the U.S. government nor U.S. contractors seem to know what is to be taxed, which opens revenue cracks that Kabul has sought to “exploit,” the report says.
One other thing from the report:
— “DOD contracting officers do not fully understand Afghanistan’s tax laws.”
No doubt about it: Afghanistan is becoming more like the U.S. every day.