In the last week, news broke that the attorney general’s office is going after Facing East, a very popular Taiwanese restaurant in Bellevue, and its owner Yu-Ling Wong for alleged sales tax evasion. (Read our story on this on page 4 of this issue.)
Wong is accused of pocketing nearly $400,000 in sales tax from her restaurant earnings through the use of sales suppression software that was made illegal in Washington state in 2013. The software company, based in Canada, is headed by Pius Chan, who has had his share of negative press in regard to the software.
Dealing in cash is a common practice among Asians. Many of us have stepped into a small grocery store or a restaurant in the International District only to find a “cash only” sign posted near registers.
Part of this practice is due to the fact that East Asian people, frankly, just prefer to pay in cash. It’s a cultural tick. According to a Marketplace.org report, people in the United States pay in cash only one-third of the time. In China, people pay in cash 95 percent of the time.
What fuels this behavior is lack of trust in systems — between customer and business owners — and between consumers and banks. One way to think of it is:
Why wouldn’t someone else copy down your credit card number and use it to buy anything they want?
Additionally, Asian cultures steeped in Confucianism do not like the idea of debt — and credit cards are basically symbols of money owed.
Of course, like with many things, there can be a dark side to preponderances. Many Asian businesses — especially restaurants — have a reputation of dealing with cash-only sales so that they can underreport their earnings and save on paying taxes, which is what Facing East is being accused of.
What is especially disheartening about this incident is that the business in question is one that deviates from the negative and stereotypical image that many people have of “Asian businesses.” Facing East is situated near the luxe area of downtown Bellevue, near the shopping center. Also, ever since they opened their doors in 2007, business has boomed. There are long waits at all hours of the day it seems. It’s perplexing to us, that a business that is doing so well would greedily cheat taxpayers out of their money.
What’s also unfortunate is that another successful Chinese business person created the zapper software that abetted the tax fraud. This only serves to reinforce old and harmful stereotypes about Asians.
We believe that when immigrants come to this country and become very successful, they should use their influence and resources to contribute to the local community rather than take advantage of community members. (end)