Actors, execs skip taxes

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Actors, execs skip taxes


Sewol ferry owner Chonghaejin Marine; former Ilgwang chairman Lee Kyu-tae, who was sentenced for defense contract-related corruption; actress Shin Eun-kyoung; and comedian turned film director Shim Hyung-rae were just few of the names that the tax agency disclosed that owe the government large sums in taxes.

The National Tax Service released the names of 16,655 individuals and companies that owed more than 300 million won ($257,000) in taxes for 2016 as of November. The total number of names that were disclosed this year is six times the number made public last year.

The total reported surged this year because the NTS lowered the standard on name disclosures from 500 million won to 300 million won.

The NTS has been lowering the threshold of high-profile tax evaders since disclosures were adopted in 2004. In the first year, only those who have unpaid taxes exceeding 1 billion won for more than two years were listed. Other details including the amount of taxes owed as well as their home or business addresses were also made public. In 2010, that standard was dropped to 700 million won of unpaid taxes for more than two years and in 2012 it was changed to a year or more and more than 500 million won.

The total amount of taxes these people owed the government amounted to 13.3 trillion won.

On average, each high-profile tax evader owed 800 million won and those whose unpaid tax is between 500 million won and 1 billion won accounted for 85.7 percent or 14,287 individuals and companies. Among the names disclosed, 68 percent were individuals. The older they were the more taxes they owed. Those in their 50s and 60s accounted for 62 percent of the people whose names were disclosed and the taxes that they owed accounted for 62.2 percent or 5.61 trillion won. The majority of them, or 64.4 percent, lived in metropolitan Seoul.

Among individuals, Park Kook-tae, former CNH Chemical investor, owed the biggest tax amount, or 122.3 billion won. The petroleum and alternative fuel company CNH Chemical in 2015 ranked first among companies, owing 49 billion won.

Lee Kyu-tae, the disgraced former chairman of Ilgwang, ranked fourth on the individual list with unpaid taxes of 19.9 billion won, while actress Shin Eun-kyung owes 796 million won and comedian-turned director Shim Hyung-rae owes 615 million won. Chonghaejin Marine is delinquent 5.3 billion won in taxes.

The NTS said it was able to collect or seize the personal belongings of high-profile tax evaders last year worth nearly 1.5 trillion won. It has requested that justice authorities ban 3,753 tax evaders from leaving the country and filed criminal charges against 199 tax evaders and civil charges against 280.

Some of the high profile tax evaders tried to hide their assets when tax agents investigated them. An identified businessman withdrew his fortune from a bank and tried to hide it in the business office and storage facilities of people close to him including relatives. However, through analyzing the security camera at the bank, the tax agency has found that the person who withdrew the money was an employee of his son’s company. Tax agents discovered his assets, including 500 million won in a biscuit box hid in a relative’s storage unit. Others falsified their addresses or tried to launder their wealth through high-end watches or expensive works of art.

The NTS is offering 2 billion won for those who provide any information on tax evasions and hidden wealth.

“We will track down any hidden wealth and levy taxes on those who have failed to pay their taxes despite having the economic ability to do so,” said an NTS official.

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