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Tax change to benefit employees

Tax change to benefit employees

The government’s tax collection body has extended the fringe benefit tax exemption to several new industries, removing the 20-percent tax that employers were previously required to pay on the benefits they offered to their workers.

Kong Vibol, director of the General Department of Taxation (GDT), said the fringe benefit tax – part of an employer’s monthly salary tax obligation – applies to benefits that employees receive on top of their regular monthly salary, such as meals, transportation and childcare allotments.

He said while an exemption to the tax was first applied in January 2015 to encompass workers in the garment and footwear industry, it has now been expanded across all sectors.

“Now, for owners in all of the manufacturing sectors – including hotels, rubber plantations and all agricultural employers that provide additional benefits to employees – they will not be charged a tax [on these benefits],” he said. “It covers all employers and all sectors.”

Vibol’s comments followed a circular released by the GDT last Thursday.

Under the previous tax regime, employers were required to pay a 20 percent monthly tax on the fringe benefits, with the financial value of the benefits determined according to “fair” market value.

However, according to the circular, the tax exemption comes with oversight that necessitates employers keep detailed records in order to qualify.

“In order to get the tax exemption, factory and enterprises need to submit the documents [that prove] that they have a policy that supports their employees,” the document said.

Clint O’Connell, from the tax firm DFDL Cambodia, said that while this is essentially not a new tax reduction, the announcement clarifies employers’ commitments. “The new circular stipulates that allowances received within the framework of fulfilling employment activities shall not be included in the taxable salary calculation base and shall not be subject to tax on fringe benefits,” he said.

He explained that the primary focus of the tax exemption was to improve the livelihoods of workers. It did so by encouraging employers to further provide benefits knowing that they would be tax free, an important measure given that minimum wage hikes, including the latest increase from $140 a month to $153, have the potential of pushing employees into taxable salary bands.

The minimum taxable income was raised to $200 a month in January 2015.

“This circular enhances the wage increase by clarifying what was previously a grey area and by providing a clear exemption from tax – provided certain criteria are met,” O’Connell said.

While he said the government would still need to further explain what documents employers need to file and when, employers will need to “clearly demarcate and define” their benefit funds to obtain the GDT exemptions.

Hiroshi Uematsu, CEO of Phnom Penh SEZ, said the removal of the fringe benefit tax was a positive measure as its imposition was a misguided policy.

“This is positive for factories and their employees, as it was wrong to try to tax companies that wanted to provide extra benefits to their employees in the first place,” he said. He added that Cambodia was unique in the region for imposing this tax, and in removing it the Kingdom was becoming “normal.”

“This will help factories that are already operating here, but as for increasing potential new investors into Cambodia, it does nothing as the minimum wage hikes still create a negative image for investors,” he said.

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