The Cambodia Daily yesterday sent a letter to the Tax Department questioning the amount of back taxes it owes and requesting a meeting with department officials.
The letter to the Tax Department’s Kong Vibol, who has repeatedly said the Daily will be shut down on September 4 if it doesn’t pay $6.3 million in taxes and penalties allegedly accrued over the last decade, follows a speech on Tuesday by Prime Minister Hun Sen in which he called the paper the “chief thief”, telling it to “pack your things and leave” if it didn’t pay up.
Yesterday’s letter contests the “figures, calculations and assumptions” used for the assessment of back taxes, based on an evaluation by their tax lawyer, calling it “egregiously wrong and in violation of the normal process”.
Additionally, it said, Bernard Krisher, the paper’s founder and former owner, had disagreed with the figure but not absolved himself of any tax liabilities following a fair audit.
“Therefore I would like to request a true audit. We would very much like to understand on what basis and information you reached the conclusion that the Cambodia Daily owes” the funds, Deputy Publisher Deborah Krisher-Steele wrote.
Vibol could not be reached for comment yesterday and his deputy, Vann Puthipoll, would not comment on the ministry’s response to the letter. However, the department released a letter late last night rebutting statements made by Kirsher-Steele over the past few weeks.
The three-page document takes umbrage with Krisher-Steele’s criticising of the leak of its tax document on local media, with the statement instead questioning how only one page of multiple documents sent to the Daily were leaked – and accused the newspaper of orchestrating it. “Where does the leaking originate from? So, the Cambodia Daily itself has the intention of disseminating and leaking the information to poison the situation and accused the Tax Administration of violating the Law on Taxation,” the statement reads.
Also, Krisher-Steele has maintained that she was unaware of the “debt” when she purchased the company from her father Bernard Krisher in April. She also said that Krischer’s charitable donations – totalling tens of millions of dollars – should be taken into account when calculating the Daily’s tax liabilities.
To this the Tax Department said purchase of assets did not absolve the purchaser of accompanying liabilities. With regards to charitable donations, the department stated that Krisher was not liable for the Daily’s tax obligations as he was no longer the owner, and that his charitable activities were never reported.