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2019 budget: taxing it right, for a solid future

07/11/2018 10:53 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 (Bernama) – The Pakatan Harapan-led government’s maiden Budget comes with some tough measures in terms of taxes as expected, plans for further fiscal consolidation as well as the right incentives for businesses to prosper and bring Malaysia’s economy back on a stronger footing.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng also announced several proposals, including the imposition of excise duty from April 1, 2019 of 40 sen a litre for two categories of ready-to-drink sweetened beverages – those containing more than 5 gm of added sugar or other sweetening agent in 100 ml., as well as fruit and vegetable juices with more than 12 gm. in 100 ml.    

Lim also announced a rise in the Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) rate; higher taxes, fees and levies for the gambling sector; and the introduction of taxes for imported services including online services as well as excise duty on sweetened drinks.   

“This imposition of taxes (on imported services) will even out the competition between retail shops and online shops, especially online shops owned by foreign companies,” Lim said when tabling the 2019 Budget themed “Credible Malaysia, Dynamic Economy, Prosperous People.”

For companies and for individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents, the RPGT rate goes up to 10 per cent from 5 per cent.

For citizens and permanent residents, meanwhile, the RPGT rate is raised to 5  per cent from zero per cent.

Taxes, fees and levies that have not gone up since 2005 wil be amended, for example the casino duty will increase to RM150 million from RM120 million, with the duty rising to 35 per cent of gross income.

The government will also launch a special voluntary declaration scheme to give taxpayers an opportunity to voluntarily declare any income not reported for the purpose of taxation, including from offshore accounts.    

In addition, Lim said the government will also review the existing taxes and incentives under various types of legislation to ensure their relevance and reduce revenue leakages.

“To ensure all tax incentives remain relevant and prevent overlap, the government will also conduct a comprehensive review of more than 130 types of investment support scheme offered by 32 investment promotion agencies,” he said.

The 2019 Budget sees not only new taxes or tax increases, but also tax reductions that would benefit the government and businesses.

“To continue to promote Malaysia as global leader in the bond and sukuk market, the government has proposed to extend the reduction of double taxation when issuing bonds under the Ijarah and Wakalah principles, as well as the expenditure borne by a company issuing retail bonds or sukuk for three assessment years starting from assessment year 2019,” he said.

As for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which comprise 98.5 per cent of businesses in Malaysia, Lim said the government recognises their contribution as the main driver of the nation’s economic growth.

He said Syarikat Jaminan Pembiayaan Perniagaan Bhd will guarantee 60 per cent of loans worth RM4.5 billion from commercial financial institutions, including RM1 billion for Bumiputera SMEs.

“For companies with taxable income of up to RM500,000 and SMEs with paid-up capital of less than RM2.5 million, the corporate tax rate will be reduced to 17 per cent from 18 per cent,” he said.

To foster an entrepreneurial culture, venture capital funds managed by government agencies such as Malaysia Technology Development Corporation and Malaysia Debt Ventures Bhd will be standardised to ensure the funds are channelled only to high-potential companies.

“Government-linked investment funds will provide RM2 billion in matching grants to invest in private equity funds and venture capital funds in order to promote investment in selected high-growth strategic sectors,” he said.

The government also proposes to set up a Co-Investment Fund worth RM50 million for co-investment with the private sector via alternative financing platforms such as community equity funds and peer-to peer lending.

Lim added that the government is also allocating RM210 million for the period from 2019 to 2021 to promote Industry 4.0 adoption.

To improve fiscal management, Lim said the Federal government has restructured the budget approach to zero-based budgeting.

The government will also table the Fiscal Responsibility Act in 2021 to prevent uncontrolled spending and mega debts, he noted.

“To provide a comprehensive picture of the the nation’s debts and liabilities as well as overall assets, the government will implement accrual accounting to replace cash-based accounting from 2021,” he added.

For the next three years, the Pakatan Harapan administration is committed to implementing fiscal consolidation measures to reduce the deficit to 3.4 per cent of GDP in 2019, 3 per cent in 2020 and 2.8 per cent in 2021.

In 2018, the fiscal deficit is expected to hit 3.7 per cent, although in the medium term it is expected to decline to about two per cent.

To ensure the effectiveness of fiscal consolidation measures for the RM1 trillion national debt, the government wil create a debt management office to look into and manage government debts and liabilities.

“The government needs to restructure not just the existing debts but also look into future debt commitments, including operating leases totalling tens of billions,” said Lim.

Towards that end, the government has cancelled a number of projects such as the Multi-Product Pipeline and Trans-Sabah Pipeline, and postponed the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail venture, he added.

To improve revenues, Lim said the government will, among others, reduce its stake in non-strategic companies, sell land to the highest bidders, and privatise infrastructure assets.



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