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GDT’s hands tied on sign fees

Traffic passes under a Smart advertisement billboard yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Traffic passes under a Smart advertisement billboard yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

GDT’s hands tied on sign fees

The tax authority yesterday refuted local media claims that it had endorsed a private sector call to end Phnom Penh City Hall’s taxation of billboards and commercial signage throughout the capital, which advocates have said imposes an onerous levy on local businesses.

In a clarification letter, the General Department of Taxation (GDT) claimed a media outlet had misinterpreted its director’s words during his recent meeting with a local business association, and emphasised that the GDT had no authority to prevent municipal officials from collecting fees on billboards and commercial signage within their jurisdiction. The fees levied by City Hall did not overlap with its own taxation of these advertising platforms, it added.

“GDT has no authority to cancel the right of Phnom Penh City Hall to collect the abovementioned fee,” the letter said. “Phnom Penh City Hall is authorised to collect fees on the approval for billboards or commercial signage, which is non-fiscal income [for the government] and does not constitute an overlap in tax charges.”

The tax authority’s announcement came one day after local tabloid La Reine stated that GDT General-Director Kong Vibol had accepted the request of Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) to end City Hall’s levies on advertising billboards and commercial signage in Phnom Penh.

Lim Heng, vice president of CCC, told The Post yesterday that the “dual taxation” of billboards and commercial signage was onerous and discourages businesses from spending money on advertising to expand their business.

“It has been a sensitive issue for businesses in Phnom Penh for a long time because they always question why they need to pay both GDT and City Hall,” he said.

Heng said CCC had lobbied GDT to end City Hall’s fees, but said failing that the government should combine the two fees into a single levy, which would save businesses time and costs.

Met Measpheakdey, spokesman of Phnom Penh City Hall, explained that the fee the municipality imposes on “advertising services” such as billboards and commercial signage was mandated by the government.

“It’s our job to collect this fee in accordance with official government approval,” he said. “If GDT wants to discuss the issue, however, we would welcome collaboration.”

GDT added in its clarification letter that it would relay the concerns of the private sector to the Ministry of Economy and Finance in order to find a solution.

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