(Feb. 4, 2009) On December 5, 2008, the Special Statute for Distributing Consumption Vouchers for Revitalizing the Economy was promulgated and took effect in the Republic of China (on Taiwan) (ROC). It will remain in force until September 30, 2009. According to ROC President Ma Ying-jeou, “Taiwan is the first country in the world to distribute consumer vouchers since the onset of the global economic downturn.” (Eric Chao, Vouchers Help Beat Downturn, TAIWAN JOURNAL, Jan. 23, 2009, available at http://taiwanjournal.nat.gov.tw/ct.asp?CtNode=122&xItem=47625.)
The stated objective of the new, ten-article law is to distribute the vouchers in order to revitalize the economy, stimulate private consumption, and promote domestic demand (art. 1). The competent authority for the program, according to the Statute, is the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) under the Executive Yuan (Cabinet); it will handle the planning and promotion of the distribution of consumption vouchers.
Under the Statute, each individual who is eligible for collecting a voucher as stipulated by the Ministry of the Interior may collect an NT$3,600 (about US$107) consumption voucher to be used for purchasing merchandise or labor services or for making donations. The vouchers are exempt from income tax. If an individaul uses the voucher to make a donation to the government or to educational, cultural, public interest, or charitable organizations or groups, the donation will be deductible in conformity with the relevant provision of the Income Tax Law (art. 5). (For separate Measures on the Qualifications of Consumption Voucher Holders and on Distribution Work, implemented on Dec. 7, 2009, see CEPD website, http://www.cepd.gov.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0011348 (last visited Jan. 29, 2009).) It was reported on January 23, 2009, that over 91% of the vouchers have been distributed, with about 21 million people having collected the vouchers from 14,202 distribution stations throughout Taiwan, representing “a potential NT$76.23 billion boost for Taiwan's economy over the next eight months.” (Chao, supra.)
The Statute specifies that the central government will draw up a special budget for the funds needed to distribute consumption vouchers, which will not be subject to the restrictions in the Budget Law on ordinary expenditures. The source of such funds may be handled by debt-raising methods, without being subject to the restrictions of the Public Debt Law on annual borrowing limits (art. 4).
Only exact change will be accepted when the vouchers are used, and they may not be resold; redeemed for cash or for commodity or cash gift coupons; or used to purchase stored-value cards in electronic, magnetic, optical, or other forms. The vouchers may not serve as objects of seizure, setoff, security, or compulsory execution. Businessmen who violate these stipulations will be fined three to five times the face value of the voucher by the tax authorities (arts. 6 & 9). The Statute empowers the CEPD to determine measures on the places, types of transactions, and time period for which the vouchers can be used (art. 7, para. 1). According to CEPD Chairman Chen Tian-jy, a “negative list approach” was to be used to inform the public about limits on voucher use. (Shih Hsiu-chuan, Flora Wang, & Rich Chang, Cabinet Unveils Voucher Restrictions, TAIPEI TIMES, Nov. 25, 2008, at 3, available at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2008/11/25/2003429478.) This approach is reflected in the Measures on the Use of Consumption Vouchers for Revitalizing the Economy, issued on December 31, 2008, and in effect from January 18 – September 30, 2009. (See the list of measures on consumption vouchers, CEPD website, supra.) The Statute stipulates that solicitation activities of collecting vouchers and accepting donated vouchers and their management, will be handled in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charitable Donations Statute (art. 7, para. 2).
The Ministry of the Interior is authorized by the Statute to determine measures on the distribution personnel, distribution methods, period of collection, organizations and places of collection, documents to be prepared for inspection, and other relevant matters (art. 7, para. 3). The model of voting booths was used to set up stations for distributing the vouchers. Persons unable to go to a station in person or arrange for someone to pick up the voucher on their behalf on the designated distribution day of January 18 will be allowed to collect them at post offices until the end of April. In its capacity to establish the terms for qualified recipients of the vouchers, the Ministry stated that every citizen and foreign spouse would qualify. Moreover, in a resolution appended to the Statute, the Ministry is required to include infants registered in the program before March 31, 2009, as well. (Shih Hsiu-chuan, Legislature Passes Statute on the Issuing of Vouchers, TAIPEI TIMES, Dec. 6, 2008, at 3, available at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2008/12/06/2003430427; Legislative Yuan, Important News, THE COMMONS DAILY, Dec. 6, 2008, at A01 [in Chinese], available at http://www.ly.gov.tw/ly/01_introduce/0103_leg/leg_main/leg_news/leg_news_02.js
lgno=00088.) The Statute also authorizes the Ministry of Finance to determine measures on businesses' deposits of vouchers in banks and on the account entry methods, time limits, and related matters (art. 7, para. 4).
For business related to the vouchers, the law states, the provisions on soliciting and awarding bids in the Government Procurement Law need not be applied (art. 8). The above-mentioned resolution appended to the Statute states that the administrative costs of work related to the vouchers' distribution may not exceed three percent of the special budget; that within one month after the implementation of the Statute has been completed, the CEPD should compile statistics and an assessment report to be submitted in writing to the legislature; and that businessmen should receive reimbursement for the vouchers before October 31, 2009. (THE COMMONS DAILY, supra; see also Press Release, Ministry of Finance, Matters Requiring Attention in Businessmen (Firm)'s Reimbursement for Vouchers (Jan. 22, 2009), available at http://www.mof.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=49745&ctNode=657&mp=1; see also in general CEPD website, supra.)