1,000s of Taiwanese protest taxes with nod to French rallies

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Thousands of Taiwanese, taking a page from France's yellow vest movement, protested Thursday for the third time in a week to demand lower taxes and the fair handling of tax disputes.

Wearing yellow vests, they shouted slogans and blared air horns outside the Ministry of Finance in Taipei, the capital city, and waved banners calling Taiwan's tax collection policies illegal. Some wore clear plastic raincoats over their vests in a light rain.

"This is about our futures," said Joanna Tai, a 23-year-old English-language graduate student who plans to teach after graduation next year.

"We look at wages in Hong Kong and mainland China. We want to know why there's so much of a gap with Taiwan," she said. "Then a lot of my classmates want to start companies and be their own bosses but, because of taxes, a lot of small businesses have folded."

The Tax & Legal Reform League, an activist group, called the protest after marshaling about 20,000 people outside the presidential office in an initial demonstration a week ago, and another 10,000 on Saturday, according to organizers and Taiwanese media.

The organizers said they were inspired by the success of the recent French protests, which turned violent and were blamed for 10 deaths. The Taiwanese protests have been peaceful.

French President Emmanuel Macron eventually agreed to scrap a tax hike for gasoline and diesel and increase the minimum salary for full-time workers, as well as other steps.

"We saw Macron and he wanted to soften up, so that gave us some encouragement to protest, so we hope the president here can hear our voices," Reform League media liaison Wang Chih-lan said. "The Ministry of Finance is the major culprit. It's a big organization that's causing poverty in Taiwan."

Demonstrators wearing yellow vests protest in Paris:

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Demonstrators wearing yellow vests riot, torch cars to protest against higher diesel fuel taxes in Paris
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Demonstrators wearing yellow vests riot, torch cars to protest against higher diesel fuel taxes in Paris
A man takes a snapshot of charred cars the day after a demonstration, near the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. A protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot in the French capital, as activists torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multi-colored graffiti. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A charred car is pictured the day after a demonstration, near the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. A protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot in the French capital, as activists torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multi-colored graffiti. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Graffitis are pictured on the Arc de Triomphe the day after a demonstration, in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. A protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot in the French capital, as activists torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multi-colored graffiti. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Workers are about to clean a graffiti, center, reading "yellow jackets will triumph" on the Arc de Triomphe the day after a demonstration, in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. A protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot in the French capital, as activists torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multi-colored graffiti. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A woman takes a snapshot of charred cars the day after a demonstration, near the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. A protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot in the French capital, as activists torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multi-colored graffiti. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A worker is about to clean a graffiti reading " Macron resignation" on the Arc de Triomphe the day after a demonstration, in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. A protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot in the French capital, as activists torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multi-colored graffiti. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A charred car is pictured the day after a demonstration, near the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. A protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot in the French capital, as activists torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multi-colored graffiti. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Demonstrator push charred car during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. Protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend and over 100 were arrested after pockets of demonstrators built barricades in the middle of streets in central Paris, lit fires and threw rocks at officers Saturday. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Demonstrators are pictured from the top of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees avenue during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. Demonstrations against rising taxes turned into scenes of rioting in Paris city center as at least 65 people including 11 police officers have been injured in violent protests in the French capital. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
A broken sculpture of Marianne, symbol of the French Repupblic, appears damaged in the gallery inside the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. A French protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot Saturday in Paris as police fired tear gas and water cannon in street battles with activists wearing the fluorescent yellow vests of a new movement. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
A demonstrator leaves as water cannons evacuate the Place de l'Etoile, near the Arc de Triomphe, Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. A French protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot Saturday in Paris as police fired tear gas and water cannon in street battles with activists wearing the fluorescent yellow vests of a new movement. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
A demonstrator watches a burning car near the Champs-Elysees avenue during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. French authorities have deployed thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and Emmanuel Macron's presidency. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
A hooded demonstrator throws an large wooden piece onto a fire during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. Protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend and over 100 were arrested after pockets of demonstrators built barricades in the middle of streets in central Paris, lit fires and threw rocks at officers Saturday. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A hooded demonstrator throws an item as a car buns during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. Protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend and over 100 were arrested after pockets of demonstrators built barricades in the middle of streets in central Paris, lit fires and threw rocks at officers Saturday. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Hooded demonstrators smash a car during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. Protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend and over 100 were arrested after pockets of demonstrators built barricades in the middle of streets in central Paris, lit fires and threw rocks at officers Saturday. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A demonstrator runs pas a burning car during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. Protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend and over 100 were arrested after pockets of demonstrators built barricades in the middle of streets in central Paris, lit fires and threw rocks at officers Saturday. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Demonstrators stand by the words "yellow jackets will triumph" written in black letters at the base of the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say at least 63 people have been arrested in violent clashes between protesters and police amid nationwide demonstrations against rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's policies. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Un manifestante pasa frente a una barricada cerca del Arco del Triunfo en los Campos Elíseos, durante una protesta el sábado 1 de diciembre de 2018, en París. (AP Foto/Kamil Zihnioglu)
A demonstrator holds a French flag near the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say at least 63 people have been arrested in violent clashes between protesters and police amid nationwide demonstrations against rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's policies. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators wearing yellow jackets face water cannons near the Champs-Elysees avenue during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. French authorities have deployed thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and Emmanuel Macron's presidency. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Manifestantes vistiendo chalecos amarillos protestan en el Arco del Triunfo, durante los enfrentamientos con la policía el sábado 1 de diciembre de 2018, en París. (AP Foto/Thibault Camus)
Demonstrators, known as they yellow jackets, protest in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, against rising fuel costs and what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Demonstrators clash with police near burning barricades in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, during protests against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
A demonstrator kicks a teargas canister away during clashes with police in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, during protests against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
A man records the scene through clouds of teargas as demonstrators clash with police in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, during protests against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Police clash with demonstrators as Christmas trees burn in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, during protests against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Demonstrators run through clouds of teargas during clashes with police in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, during protests against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Demonstrators clash with police in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, during protests against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Police take position near a burning police car as they face demonstrators in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, protesting against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Police take position near to burning barricades made from garbage, as they face demonstrators in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, protesting against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Police take position near to burning barricades made from garbage, as they face demonstrators in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, protesting against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Police take position as they face demonstrators in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, protesting against what they claim were dilapidated residential buildings that collapsed Monday Nov. 5, killing eight people. French authorities on Saturday deployed some thousands of police on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue to try to contain protests by people angry over rising taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's government. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
France's President Emmanuel Macron shakes hand with a firefighter as he visits firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS
A yellow vest hangs inside a vandalized store the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A yellow vest hangs inside a vandalized store front the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A vandalized car is seen the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A person makes a picture outside a vandalized restaurant the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A man sweeps outside a vandalized store the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A man jogs past a vandalized bank front the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A vandalized bus stop is seen the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
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A ministry spokeswoman said earlier this week that anti-tax activists have been pushing for lower taxes for about 20 years. Tsai Meng-chu said that the ministry has responded to some of their complaints on its website, including a rebuttal to allegations that the tax system contributes to poverty.

"Their complaints are just that they're not satisfied with the tax system," she said, noting that Taiwan offers payment deferrals to low-income individuals.

Protesters said they had received tax bills sent in error or asking for too much tax. An appeal costs too much, they said, and tax collectors sometimes keep hounding them for taxes even after losing in court. Income taxes add hardship to young people in low-paid, entry-level jobs, some said.

The average monthly wage in Taiwan is $1,364, and the minimum wage is set to rise to $750 in January. During her campaign, President Tsai Ing-wen said she would work on wages and welfare for youth.

Taiwanese who earn less than $2.42 million New Taiwan dollars (about $78,500) a year pay no more than 20 percent in taxes, according to data compiled by professional services firm KPMG.

KPMG ranked Taiwan 33rd for the world's highest taxes on a list of 135 countries and regions. France ranked 12th.

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