NTS wages war on 224 tax cheaters

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NTS wages war on 224 tax cheaters

Declaring war on the underground economy, the National Tax Service started a new campaign against tax cheaters yesterday, a day after its officials told President Park Geun-hye how it planned to boost tax revenues to pay for her campaign promises.

The state-run tax agency said 224 people are on its radar for habitually evading taxes.

According to the NTS, the list includes: 51 wealthy people who are known to have illegally bequeathed large amounts to family members to avoid estate taxes, or people who have assets in bank accounts opened under other names; 48 people suspected of offshore tax evasion; 117 loan sharks who dodge taxes on the high interest rates they charge borrowers; and eight Internet groups that evade taxes on goods they sell online.

The NTS has given responsibility for the probe to the Seoul Regional Tax Office’s investigation units II and IV. Their 927 investigators will be dedicated to closing down parts of the country’s underground economy, which doesn’t report income and therefore evades taxes.

“We will focus on the main techniques of the underground economy, which are surreptitious bank accounts, illegal transfers of wealth, offshore tax evasion, loan sharks, [illegal] Internet gambling sites,” said Lim Hwan-soo, a senior NTS official.

“We will expand the probe into high-earning professions and businesses including doctors, lawyers, dentists and realtors, in which cash payments are common.”

The NTS said it will increase the number of regular tax probes of companies with over 50 billion won ($44.5 million) in annual revenue while dropping probes into smaller companies with annual revenue of 10 billion won or less. This means that 430,000 SMEs, which account for 93 percent of all corporations in Korea, will benefit, Lim said.

Social enterprises and companies that faithfully paid taxes will be exempted from tax probes even if their annual revenues surpass 10 billion won, the NTS said.

The tax agency will also suspend its tax probe into SMEs and conglomerates if they substantially increase their workforces compared to 2012.

National Tax Service commissioner Kim Duk-joong said in a parliamentary confirmation hearing in March that he estimates roughly 6 trillion won can be collected from tax evaders once the NTS has direct access to the Financial Services Commission’s Financial Intelligence Unit data.

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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