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PETALING JAYA: Amid concerns about the nation’s narrow tax base, tax experts and economists are urging the government to undertake bold tax reforms.
Although this is an uphill task, they agree that a comprehensive tax framework is necessary to support the country’s economic agenda and improve its fiscal position and spur domestic and foreign investments.
Deloitte Malaysia tax leader Sim Kwang Gek told StarBiz that considering the ambitious target to achieve a fiscal deficit of 3.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 and a RM400bil budget for development expenditure over five years, bold tax reforms would be needed to beef up tax collection.
“Timing is crucial if these targets are to be achieved within five years, but it’s a tough call to make since the priority is to help businesses recover.
“Taxes are never popular. Hence, it is important to demonstrate that taxes collected have benefited the people and the nation as a whole. Clear rules and a simpler tax administration will also encourage more taxpayers to declare their income accordingly,” she noted.
Malaysia has room to diversify its tax base to lean more towards consumption taxes and the goods and services tax (GST) could be the solution, she said.
Consumption taxes like the GST will provide the government a more sustainable revenue in the long run and reduce dependency on oil-related revenue and direct taxes.
Sim Kwang Gek
Budget 2022 estimates about 73% of the government’s revenue to come from taxes. Out of a projected total tax revenue of RM171bil, direct taxes make up 74% while indirect taxes contribute about 26%.
Comparing this with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average, where the percentage of value-added taxes and other consumption taxes accounted for 32.3% of the total tax revenue in 2019, corporate Malaysia has room to broaden its tax base.
Total revenue as a percentage to GDP declined from 21.4% in 2012 to 15.9% in 2020. The Ministry of Finance (MoF) is forecasting the figures to further decline to 14.6% and 14.3% in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Sim said the government could also look at effective ways to tackle the shadow economy, which accounted for 18.2% of the GDP in 2019.
“The implementation of the Tax Identification Number or TIN for businesses and individual income earners aged 18 and above should contribute towards more tax collection because this will increase the number of registered taxpayers and reduce tax leakages,” she said.
Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC) chief economist Firdaos Rosli (pic below) noted that the nation’s tax revenue to GDP of 10.9% in 2020 was one of the lowest in Asean, despite the economy being one of the region’s largest.