A decision by Beijing authorities to impose tax on mooncakes, a delicacy given as gifts for the Mid-Autumn Festival, has sparked an outcry in the Chinese capital, reports said Monday.
The cakes -- heavy pastries containing sweet lotus seed paste -- will from this year be considered a non-cash benefit and subject to income tax, the Global Times said, citing the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau.
A poll conducted by the microblogging service Weibo found that 96 percent of users opposed the tax on the sweetmeat, and many Chinese said they would prefer not to receive them at all.
"Since when are mooncakes taxed? I'd rather not receive such benefits if I have to pay such tax," IT worker Wang Youhua told the China Daily newspaper.
The tax authorities gave no reason for the move, but the price of mooncakes has soared in recent years as retailers have come up with increasingly elaborate ways to make the traditional gifts more desirable.
While the average box costs around 100 yuan ($16), a box containing a gold-plated knife can retail for well over 10 times as much.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important on China's lunar calendar after the Chinese New Year.
It is based on the legend of Chang E, the mythical moon fairy who lived in a crystal palace and came out only to dance on the moon's shadowed surface.
The most famous story linked to mooncakes is that they were used to conceal secret messages sent among Chinese revolutionaries who plotted the overthrow of the Mongol invaders in the 14th century.
These days, families gather for large meals, traditionally on the evening of the new moon which this year falls on September 12, with the mooncakes central to the celebrations.