January 7, 2011 in Nation/World

Romanian witches under taxman’s spell

New income tax law expands who pays
Alison Mutler Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Romanian witches perform a ritual in Chitila, Romania, on Thursday to celebrate Epiphany, gathering around a fire and throwing corn into an icy river.
(Full-size photo)

CHITILA, Romania – Everyone curses the tax man, but Romanian witches angry about having to pay up for the first time hurled poisonous mandrake into the Danube River on Thursday to cast spells on the president and government.

Romania’s newest taxpayers also included fortune tellers – but they probably should have seen it coming.

Superstitions are no laughing matter in Romania – the land of the medieval ruler who inspired the “Dracula” tale – and have been part of its culture for centuries. President Traian Basescu and his aides have been known to wear purple on certain days, supposedly to ward off evil.

A witch at the Danube named Alisia called the new tax law “foolish.”

“What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything?” she said, identifying herself with only one name as many Romanian witches do.

Yet on the Chitila River in southern Romania, other witches gathered around a fire Thursday and threw corn into an icy river to celebrate Epiphany. They praised the new government measure, saying it gives them official recognition.

Witch Melissa Minca told the Associated Press she was “happy that we are legal,” before chanting a spell to call for a good harvest, clutching a jar of charmed river water, a sprig of mistletoe and a candle.

The new tax law is part of the government’s drive to collect more revenue and crack down on tax evasion in a country that is in recession.

In the past, the less mainstream professions of witch, astrologer and fortune teller were not listed in the Romanian labor code, as were those of embalmer, valet and driving instructor. People who worked those jobs used their lack of registration to evade paying income tax.

Under the new law, like any self-employed person, they will pay 16 percent income tax and make contributions to health and pension programs.

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