A Method to Help
“The neighbour? To be frank, I think you should spare them. I know their family. They are not criminals or troublemakers. They are a pitiful family.” The elder sitting opposite Irena was so old that her pronunciation wasn’t very distinct. Still, it was clear that she hoped Irena could spare her neighbour.
Though Irena listened in intently, she refused to reduce the taxes for Lin Dongqing repeated countless times that sympathy was a personal emotion, not a reason to act in any circumstance. The rule was that you report to the tribune if you had special family circumstances or other difficulties. Paying taxes was not negotiable, though. They could have their taxes reduced if they notified the tribune, but avoiding the matter wouldn’t reduce their taxes.
“Their family consists of only the daughter and mother. The daughter goes to school, and her mother works. Their life has always been very arduous. I can tell that the daughter is a sensible, polite, passionate and nice girl. She tries not to buy water to save money even in hot weather. Unfortunately, an illness beset her mother a few months ago. How much can a child earn? She doesn’t have enough to treat her mother, let alone paying taxes. We feel sorry for her, too. If possible, you should spare them. They are very pitiful as they are.”
“I see…” Lin Chucheng’s sympathy metre was clearly maxed. He cautiously whispered to Irena, “Princess Irena… C-can we not collect their taxes? They only scrape by; they are only a mother and daughter. A girl cannot possibly earn enough on her own… Th-they will be left homeless if we force them to pay…”
Irena shook her head and pushed Lin Chucheng’s face away: “Paying taxes is a citizen’s obligation. They are enjoying the security, job opportunities and welfare benefits the nation provides. Therefore, a family issue is not a reason to not pay taxes. We are the nation’s tax officers, not guardians who protect them and provide them with welfare benefits.”
“They cannot pay, though! We cannot force somebody sick to pay money! The nation should protect its people! A nation that drives its sick citizen out of her home without batting an eye should not exist!”
Lin Chucheng started to get angry, but he maintained calm enough and didn’t lash out at the Princess as he did with his father. In saying that, his anger was noticeable. He couldn’t accept Irena’s perspective. From his perspective, the mighty empire was supposed to provide its people with benefits. At the very least, they shouldn’t leave someone sick homeless.
“It’s only normal for an empire not to leave its people stranded; however, someone who can’t even pay their taxes isn’t worthy of being the empire’s citizen. Therefore, there is no need for the empire to respect them,” argued Irena. She stood up and conveyed to the elder, “Thank you for supporting the tax bureau’s work. We shall take our leave now.”
“Y-you are government officials. Is your job to rob people of everything?” loudly asked the elder, heartbroken and struggling to her feet.
“No, but helping them is not within our duties,” answered Irina, “Our duty as tax officers is to collect taxes for the nation, not to resolve their livelihood issues. We shall be leaving now.”
Lin Chucheng irately followed behind Irena. He respected her and was careful around her. Nevertheless, all of that went out the window due to disappointment. He never thought his Princess was as cold as his father. Forcing a bankrupt family that can’t even treat their sick to pay taxes was overbearing from his perspective, even if they were tax officers.
“Irena… I want to know what will happen to the family if they do not pay their taxes.”
“Simple. The tax officers will confiscate all of their assets worth money. Their property may even be taken as collateral.”
Lin Chucheng rivetd: “D-do we really have to do that? They have no money to get treated. Is it right for us to take everything they have left?”
“I told you: we are responsible for tax collection.”
Irena was absolutely calm as that was how tax officers needed to be. Their job wasn’t to think about how to help others resolve problems because everybody who didn’t pay their taxes could have every reason under the sun not to. If tax officers had to believe every claim and investigate each one, there’d be more people needing a hospital bed than they could provide or fleeing while investigations were underway. Cons, tax officers didn’t accept reasons or allow their emotions to get in the way. Put another way, say what you want, but you won’t ever escape a tax officer out to collect your taxes.
From the very moment Irena decided to become a tax officer, Lin Dongqing warned her that she had to be ruthless as a tax officer. Whatever their problem was isn’t your problem. You have no right to waive anyone’s taxes. Irena suddenly remembered what her senior told her, though. The keyword was “reason”.
Irena: What do I do now that I know why the family won’t pay their taxes? I don’t have the authority to waive their taxes or avoid talking to them about it, for it’s my job. If I can’t collect their taxes, I’ll be the one who didn’t fulfil her duty. My job is to collect taxes, not to worry about them. I can’t do anything for their family. If I can’t help them, it’s best that I don’t stick my nose in. If I can’t help, I’ll only do myself harm.
Following that logic, Irena wouldn’t do something she couldn’t successfully do. Waiving their taxes and sticking her nose into their business, was something she couldn’t do.
“It’s all because of Lin Dongqing. Had it not been for him setting such ridiculous tax rates, their lives would not be so harsh! All those incompetent fools have so many resources, yet we cannot give someone who cannot treat themselves any hope. This nation would be better off without Lin Dongqing!”
Irena was shocked to hear Lin Chucheng’s words. “How did this become Lord Lin’s mistake now?! The tax rate he set is fine! Had it not been for all of his efforts, this empire would be nowhere near what it is today. Had it not been for him, their lives would be much more tragic! Just because your life is failing, that doesn’t mean it’s Lord Lin’s fault! I don’t understand why you think that, but it’s clear that you haven’t interacted with him!”
If only she knew…
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