Saturday, August 20

GST a useful tool to reduce Malaysia’s budget deficit

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KUCHING: Putting the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on a pedestal after the unveiling of Budget 2011 was necessary as it could be the platform for the country to leap to a higher level of development and income through the build-up of budget surpluses.

TAX HIGHLIGHTS: (From left) Ernst & Young partner Victor Fong, Azhar, Wan, Koh, Ng and Thong posing for a photo session during the talk at a leading hotel in Kuching yesterday.

This topic was the highlight of the 2011 Budget Seminar organised by Ernst & Young Tax Consultants Sdn Bhd (Ernst & Young) held at a leading hotel here yesterday.

“The announcement made before Budget Day (October 15) on the postponement of the implementation of GST tells us that GST is on,” said Ernst & Young partner Azhar Lee. “The only guessing game now is the time frame for implementation.”

He continued to highlight that with Malaysia’s budget being in a deficit successively for almost fourteen years, GST could be an effective tool to reduce the country’s deficit.

“By comparison, countries that have value-added tax (VAT) or GST in place appear to be able to manoeuvre their budgets more successfully. We seem to be in a sea of countries where GST is implemented – look at the Philippines and Vietnam.

“Malaysia’s estimated budget deficit budget for 2011 at 5.4 per cent is unattractive. It shows a lack of confidence in the market.

“We are living in a subsidy economy and more effort should be put into making our economy more transparent with focus on market play rather than be dependent on subsidies,” he noted..

Azhar pointed out that the country needed to be more independent in terms of dependency on the global economy, giving prime examples such as China and India that faced relatively cushioned effects when the global economic crisis hit a few years back.

“On the other hand, Malaysia and Singapore are very much affected when setbacks occur in major countries such as the Unites States and Europe. From this, we can see how tied we are to the global economy.”

Customs deputy director and GST Review Panel, Wan Leng Whatt affirmed this view, adding that Malaysians need a better understanding of the GST across industries before the tax could be implemented.

“The reason why the GST implementation was postponed was most probably due to the fact that we feel more preparation and understanding need to be done for businesses and the public in general to understand the implications,” Wan said.

The need to widen the country’s tax base was made obvious by the proposal to increase service tax from five to six per cent, said Ernst & Young director Koh Siok Kiat.

“Although this is a clever move so as not to unduly burden the people at this juncture, perhaps GST should be considered in the long run,” he said.

“With the existing services tax in effect in the country, we can see that there are many weak spots and a lot of issues to deal with. GST is more efficient in this context. However, to replace one with the other requires more understanding by corporations and the public.”

Ernst & Young partner, Julie Thong, focusing on the effects of Budget 2011 on corporate tax, said, “Despite no major changes which affect companies being introduced in this budget, taxpayers should nevertheless take note of various extensions to existing incentives for some activities.”

This, she pointed out, included renewable energy activities, reduction of greenhouse emissions and approved food production projects.

“In addition, businesses should take note of some subtle changes made in respect of reinvestment allowances as well as the penalty on withholding tax.”

Ernst & Young director Ng Siaw Wei covered the topicsof personal tax while Koh divulged more on the intricacies of indirect tax in the seminar.