NTS vows to take ‘ruthless’ action on tax evaders

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NTS vows to take ‘ruthless’ action on tax evaders

A businessman walked into the National Tax Service office in Seoul last month threatening to hurt himself.

“If I slice myself here I won’t be able to use this for the rest of my life,” shouted the man who had placed a handful of sharpened pencils on top of his left wrist.

“Do you have any daughters, or a son? [Wanted men] won’t personally attack you, but .?.?. ” the man shouted, threatening a female employee at the tax office.

The businessman, who ran a computer graphic service company, has owed taxes for eight years since 2004. But he rushed to the tax office after it sold his seized building last month because he failed to pay his debts.

The man was finally talked down and ended the commotion.

The NTS said from now on it will take ruthless legal action against tax evaders who owe huge amounts to the government and who threaten or create a scene that obstructs their operations.

The tax office in February launched a special department to track down hidden personal assets. There are currently 192 employees on 17 sub-teams charged with tracking down wealthy tax evaders.

As a result the special team has hunted down 557 tax evaders so far this year.

These tax evaders, despite having robust personal fortunes, claimed that their pockets were empty.

The tax office said it has levied a total of 393.8 billion won ($346 million) in fines upon individuals who owe money on their taxes.

The tax agency said in one case it spotted irregularities in the records of a former conglomerate owner who claimed that he had no personal possessions while living in a high-end apartment that was registered under his wife’s name.

The tax agency closely monitored his frequent travels abroad. The man insisted that he was on business trips.

After a scrupulous investigation it turned out that the owner, after starting a paper company in a tax haven, actually owned stocks of a nonlisted Korean company worth more than 100 billion won.

In another case, the head of a private foundation owed the government 1.6 billion won.

However, the foundation chairman sold the management rights of the foundation to another person and received a huge pile of cash in return.

The chairman, in hope of evading taxes, laundered the money through his children’s accounts.

He also used that cash to buy a luxury apartment that was bought under his child’s name.

Some even hid their fortunes in accounts that were listed under their employees’ names.

“We pinpointed our pursuit on those who have cleverly stashed their enormous fortunes as well as those who had a hand in companies that received public funds,” said Kim Deok-joong, an official at NTS.

By Lee Ho-jeong [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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