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Transgender Pakistan tax collectors


Avoiding paying taxes is a way of life in Pakistan. Less than 1 per cent of its 180 million citizens currently pay any income tax. Although tax evasion is widespread amongst the wealthy and ruling elite, a single offender has not been prosecuted for 25 years. Pakistan has one of the lowest tax-to-gross-domestic-product ratios of 9.1 per cent.

Pakistan has debilitating poverty, with 40 per cent of its population living on less than $1 daily. To raise additional tax revenue to fund social welfare, social security, health and education facilities, the Government has turned to Pakistan’s transgender community. Transgender individuals (known as ‘Hijra’s’) have been recruited to collect outstanding taxes from delinquent taxpayers. The Hijra turn up at the taxpayer’s residences dressed in their most exceptional make-up and clothing on a mission to embarrass residents into paying their taxes. Generally, the tax evaders pay up on the spot, and the Hijras don’t have to escalate the situation to clapping, shouting and generally making a scene. Transgender tax collectors have been highly productive, with recovery rates 15% higher than conventional ones.

Hijras are both respected and exploited in Pakistan society today. Typically they work as entertainers, wedding dancers, beggars and sex workers.

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