The government’s tax arm certified its first batch of professional tax agents yesterday ahead of a 2017 mandate that states any taxation service performed by an unlicensed individual or firm will no longer be accepted by the government.
The General Department of Taxation (GDT) issued 43 tax service agent licences to individuals and firms that primarily conduct tax audits and accounting procedures.
GDT director Kong Vibol said this was the first time the department granted the certificates to tax agents, adding that in the past – while agents were allowed to operate without a licence – the government was set on reforms that professionalise the industry.
“From 2017 onward, we have already determined that tax agents need to have a licence provided by GDT,” he said, adding that the 43 licensed tax agents – including 18 existing firms – will raise taxation awareness for corporations and individuals that have obligations to the state.
“If they don’t have the certificate, we will not recognise their services,” Vibol said.
In order for tax professionals to become certified, individuals are required to undertake a short training course overseen by GDT experts and pass an exam, he added.
The renewable tax service agent licences are valid for a period of two years.
“We hope that licensed tax agents know clearly about taxation laws so that they can explain to their clients the tax obligations correctly, which eventually will reduce the burden [the GDT] faces when collecting taxes,” Vibol said.
Since late 2013, Cambodia’s taxation authority has undertaken comprehensive reforms aimed at making the tax declaration process more transparent and cohesive in a bid to boost the government’s coffers. In October 2015 it launched an online registration system for tax filings and payments aimed at centralising company data. Reforms have yielded a nearly 20 percent year-on-year increase in collections, according to GDT data.
Chhiv Kimsroy, director of financial advisory firm Deloitte (Cambodia), was one of the 43 individuals to receive a certificate on behalf of her company. She said the GDT initiative was progress for a sector that is often daunted by opaque government procedures that are routinely updated with little warning on how to exercise best practices.
“Private firms now have reliable and qualified agents that can discuss tax law changes and explain them to our clients,” she said. “Once our tax compliance is better, foreign investors will feel more comfortable entering the market to further grow the economy.”
Sok Piseth, president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia, a business group that consists of 160 companies, said he welcomed the move to help taxpayers avoid any misunderstandings or confusion under the law.
“Now we can use agents that are qualified and certified by the GDT, so we will have more trust in their services,” he said. “The private sector always prefers transparency.”