Cambodia's 2020 tax revenues are expected to continue to grow, while transparency is also set to improve as tax officials become more aware of anti-corruption laws, according to the director general of the General Department of Taxation (GDT) on Monday.
Speaking to tax officials at a workshop in the capital on the Anti-Corruption Law, Kong Vibol said that strengthening legal enforcement and the use of technology in tax collection is set to further push Cambodia’s tax revenue growth, especially when a new technological system becomes fully operational in 2020.
“Understanding the anti-corruption law is very important for tax officials. Today, we are working hard on tax reform, especially strengthening good governance, transparency in paying tax and creating a fair playing field,” he said. “By strengthening the tax laws, code of ethics, procedures and the anti-corruption law, I believe it will put the tax officials in a more responsible position.”
According to Vibol, corruption in the tax sector has been a challenge in the past, as some officials received under-the-table fees from taxpayers or negotiated fees outside the system, making it difficult to audit.
“Now every form will be noted from the system, with every taxpayer or enterprise able to download the online app from the GDT and copy a QR code so we know if it’s valid,” he said.
Failure to obey the law and pay taxes not only negatively affects the government’s national income and economy as a whole, but it also contributes to corruption and a loss of transparency, Vibol said.
“These are the core strategies of the GDT, which has reformed the tax sector to make it perfect and free of corruption. Poor tax collection adversely affects the use of the state budget,” he said.
In the first six months of this year, the GDT collected over $1.5 billion in tax revenue, an increase of $324 million from the first half of last year.
Transparency International Cambodia Executive Director Preap Kol said that the complete eradication of corruption in the tax sector is a tall order anywhere in the world, and he is hesitant to assess Vibol’s commitment to the cause, saying it would be a miracle if Cambodia were successful in doing do.
“We only acknowledge that his department has collected more taxes than before, because every year tax revenue collection increases by 18 to 20 per cent. The increase stems from reforms,” he said.
However, Kol recommends that in order to eliminate corruption, the authorities must ensure truly accurate tax declarations, especially from high-ranking officials and those who are well connected with senior government officials.
Over the past five years, the GDT has averaged tax revenue collection growth of 20 per cent per annum.
It achieved a tax revenue collection total of $1.06 billion in 2014, more than $1.3 billion in 2015, more than $1.5 billion in 2016, $1.97 billion in 2017 and $2.19 billion last year.