Singapore seen kicking off race to tax US$38b shopping boom

An employee works at Amazon's Prime Now fulfillment centre in Singapore July 27, 2017. — Reuters pic

An employee works at Amazon’s Prime Now fulfillment centre in July 27, 2017. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, Feb 12 — Singapore may unveil an e-commerce tax in next week’s budget, setting the tone for a region that’s grappling with online retail’s assault on brick-and-mortar vendors.

Eight of the 12 economists in a Bloomberg survey said the Feb 19 budget will contain a new tax on online vendors, with another betting that cross-border digital transactions will now be included in the goods-and-services tax regime. Thailand, Indonesia, and — where governments are funding ambitious infrastructure programmes — are also considering similar plans.



South-east Asian governments are seeking to level the playing field for traditional vendors given the rapid growth of online retailing on platforms such as Lazada, controlled by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and Amazon.com Inc.

BMI Research projects the region’s six biggest will boost e-commerce to US$64.8 billion (RM256.1 billion) in 2021 from US$37.7 billion last year, while Group AG estimates that online shopping growth could outpace that of traditional retailers by six to 10 times over the next few years.

An e-commerce tax would ease “the competition for offline retailers that have been struggling amid the rising popularity of online shopping,” Nainika Singh, consumer analyst at BMI Research, said by email. “We are likely to see other South-east Asian markets follow Singapore’s implementation of this e-commerce tax.”

Singapore

While government officials have been tight-lipped about specific plans in the upcoming budget, they’ve cited an urgent need to get organised around the taxation of online merchants.

Online shoppers in Singapore are generally able to avoid levies on purchases that don’t exceed S$400 (RM1,190), but given how quickly the industry has transformed, a tax change should’ve been made on this front “probably yesterday,” Indranee Rajah, senior minister of state for law and finance, said in November.

Rajah said in a radio interview last week that the government was still studying the e-commerce tax and it’s certainly something they’d like to implement, according to a Business Times report.

Thailand



Thailand’s Revenue Department expects a proposed e-business levy will triple annual tax to 15 per cent, according to a Bangkok Post report, quoting Director General Prasong Poontaneat.

The draft bill sets the ceiling rate at 15 per cent and would apply to online vendors whose domain name is registered in Thailand and who have a payment system in baht or transfer money from within the country. — Bloomberg

Source: The Malay Mail Online






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