General Department of Taxation (GDT) director-general Kong Vibol refused to budge on a March 31 deadline to file tax on income (ToI) for fiscal year 2020 despite the economic pressure on the business community caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He instead directed businesses to file income taxes digitally through GDT’s ToI E-Filing system to curb the community transmission of the novel coronavirus and ensure that the government collects a sustainable stream of revenue as the pandemic stretches on, according to a March 15 GDT letter signed by the tax chief.
Vibol was replying to a March 12 letter submitted by nine international business chambers that asked for an extension and stressed the need to temporarily suspend in-person meetings, especially for taxpayers undergoing audits or new ones looking to register.
He noted that GDT has developed online systems such as “E-Filing for Monthly Tax Return”, “ToI E-Filing”, “E-Payment” and “E-Uploader” – to store tax-return records – to ease the process of tax filing and minimise the risks associated with Covid-19.
Taxpayers in need of auditing or other services will be able to get a hold of GDT officials via the Zoom app, he added.
“Taxpayers are not required to communicate in-person with tax officials to submit tax returns, and GDT is certain that the deadline for annual tax on income should not be extended,” Vibol said.
He stressed that while GDT has to adapt its safety protocols to Ministry of Health recommendations, the tax collection agency must also ensure quality service and a sustainable source of revenue.
“Therefore, to ensure sustainable revenue collection for various state expenditures and to avoid the potential risk of Covid-19 transmission during the pandemic, GDT would like to encourage members of the international chambers of commerce to fulfil their tax obligations through ToI E-Filing instead of filing tax returns manually with officials before the March 31 deadline.
“GDT would also like to seek your understanding for not extending the deadline for annual tax on income since many enterprises have already prepared theirs,” Vibol added.
Anthony Galliano, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (AmCham), one of the signatories to the March 12 letter, expressed his appreciation for Vibol’s prompt response and consideration of the business chambers’ concerns.
“This demonstrates public-private sector engagement and open dialogue, and on this occasion there was constructive conversation on material market matters.
“I believe the response can best be described as practical to the extent the government needs to maintain tax collection at this time of financial stress, and certainly from the GDT’s perspective as a government revenue-collection source, it is understandable,” he said.
He explained that all chambers pointed out the value and importance of E-filing as a GDT-made tool for taxpayers, adding that he will encourage AmCham members to use the online system.
“The prevailing concern is adequate resources available to achieve the March 31 deadline given the stay-at-home recommendation by the Royal Government and given the acceleration of the Covid cases.
“As the deadline remains unchanged, many businesses will be challenged and stressed to comply.
“The suspension of in-person meetings is a massive relief, given safety concerns of the populace, and the strong reluctance of staff to hold any meetings until Covid subsides. The chambers and their members are extremely pleased in this case.
“I believe the General Department of Taxation has spoken, so the chambers can only be hopeful that there is a change of mind, especially if the situation worsens,” Galliano said.