Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Post’s bill from tax authority business as usual, says CEO

Post’s bill from tax authority business as usual, says CEO

Traffic passes in front of the General Department of Taxation office in Phnom Penh.
Traffic passes in front of the General Department of Taxation office in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Post’s bill from tax authority business as usual, says CEO

The Phnom Penh Post is currently negotiating a tax bill with Cambodia’s General Department of Taxation (GDT), the newspaper’s CEO said on Tuesday, denying media reports that The Post was on the verge of shutting down, and characterising the negotiations as “routine”.

Marcus Holmes, who has been CEO since late 2017, said on Tuesday that the negotiations with the GDT began in December.

“It’s so routine,” he said, referring to the negotiations. “We fully expect we are going to explain this, [the GDT] is going to accept that and everyone is going to be happy.”

News articles published by online outlet AEC News and Catholic newswire UCAN had asserted that the negotiations were exceptional and threatened the newspaper with closure, claims that Holmes disputed. The pieces relied on anonymous sources claiming to be either “hackers” or close to Phnom Penh Post Publisher Bill Clough.

Holmes rejected various claims that The Post was threatened with closure in the next 60 days; that the company was being penalised for failing to disclose a $2.5 million transfer from Australia; or that a deadline to pay back a $200,000 loan from a local bank was “very soon”.

He did acknowledge that the government had sent a letter alleging that the paper failed to follow proper reporting requirements regarding a $2.5 million money transfer from Australia, where Clough resides.

“There’s some very complicated tax legislation to do with injecting capital into Cambodia from outside,” Holmes said, explaining that it was a routine part of The Post’s operation to receive funds from Australia.

He said that the issue was now subject to negotiations, and that the talks are confidential. The GDT’s policy is to not comment on specific negotiations.

The issues of tax compliance and press freedom intersected last September when English-language newspaper the Cambodia Daily, often critical of the government, was shuttered over a disputed $6.3 million tax bill. Observers connected the paper’s shutdown to a larger crackdown on independent media and the political opposition that was occurring at the time, though that claim was fiercely rejected by the GDT.

But throughout Tuesday’s interview, Holmes characterised The Post’s negotiations as routine for any business, and said that The Post’s status as the last independent newspaper in Cambodia had not affected the negotiations with the GDT.

Holmes said on Tuesday that the negotiations were ongoing and had no specific deadline, adding the newspaper was likely to file its latest reply to the Tax Department this week or early next week.

Other matters raised in the articles included a loan owed to a local bank, which Holmes said was normal, adding that the company had plans to pay it off within the next year.

The articles also referred to a payment ordered by the courts in a wrongful dismissal suit brought by former CEO Chris Dawe, who was dismissed for cause in 2015. The Post will be appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court soon, Holmes said.

“None of this is new, or interesting, or surprising,” he said.

“It’s all painted in these apocalyptic terms because we’re the last independent newspaper in Cambodia. If we weren’t . . . it would be very boring, and no business editor would be vaguely interested in publishing anything about it.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare

    Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive

  • China denies Mekong hacking

    As the US and its allies joined hands last week to expose what they allege to be China’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities around the world, the attention also turned to Cambodia with the US Department of Justice claiming that four

  • Governor: Covid subsides in capital

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng said the Covid-19 situation in the capital’s 14 districts has eased, with only two districts still recording a high number of infections. “Transmission cases in all districts are dropping, though they are relatively higher Meanchey and Por Sen Chey.