Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A promising Malaysian tax budget for 2013 this Friday?

Broadening income tax bracket will benefit the rakyat as a whole

IN the next few days, the Finance Minister will share with the rakyat the financial health of the country and the Government’s proposed budget for the next 12 months.

With the mission of “Driving Transformation Towards a Developed Nation”, the Government would have the unenviable position of balancing the economy of the country amidst the uncertainties in the external market, as well as ensuring that the plight and wishes of its rakyat are not forgotten, especially in these challenging times.

As tax consultants, we have the opportunity to hear from our clients their expectations and hopes for the upcoming budget. This article aims to analyse some of these expectations as well as the writers’ views as fellow taxpayers and as a rakyat.

Lower taxes

Looking back at the past four budgets, the Government has introduced various ways of lowering the taxes for resident individuals. (See graphics)

While a reduction in tax rate is always a welcome relief to any taxpayer, it would still depend on which level the rates are reduced as it may only benefit certain taxpayers as can be seen in 2010 whereby only those in the highest tax bracket benefited from the 1% tax rate reduction.


What the Government has not introduced is the broadening of the income tax bracket, especially at the lower rates, which will not only benefit those from the lower and middle-income group but the rakyat as a whole, with a higher disposable income. (See tables)

The tax relief available in respect of premiums for education or medical insurance has not been reviewed since 2000. Further, the RM3,000 tax relief limit covers both education and medical insurance.

As education and healthcare are essential for every rakyat and his family, the Government should consider granting tax relief for each category of the insurance premium separately – one for education and another relief for medical insurance.

The Government has also not reviewed the child relief, which has remained at RM1,000 per child below 18 years of age since 2004. Any parent will vouch that providing for a child’s wellbeing is neither easy nor cheap. Any increase in child relief for tax purposes would be welcomed.

Affordable homes

Over the last few months, the news of spiralling property prices has been hitting the media.

Currently, the Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) regime for residents and non-residents are the same, i.e. tax is charged on the gain from sale of real property depending on the duration of ownership of the real property regardless of the residence status of the seller.

Genuine resident home buyers, particularly young families who do not yet have high disposable income, are usually at the losing end compared to non-resident buyers, who are usually buyers with higher purchasing power and who perhaps have more speculative intentions.


In the past, the Government has introduced incentives such as stamp duty exemptions. However, the threshold to qualify for the exemption is limited to those properties which have value not exceeding RM350,000, thus leaving young city folks hard-pressed to find homes within this range given the spiralling property prices.

An effective measure previously introduced by the Government was the deduction in respect of interest expended by individuals to finance the purchase of residential property.

Unfortunately, this incentive was only valid for purchases whereby the sale and purchase agreement was executed within a specific period of time, which has since lapsed. The Government could re-introduce this incentive.

The Government could also consider imposing different RPGT rates for residents and non-residents. If there is a concern that foreign investors will shy away as a result, conditions could be put in place for non-residents to be eligible for the resident rates, for example:

 
  • having stayed in Malaysia for a number of years or
  • set up business operations in Malaysia for a number of years, etc.
Alternatively, to quell speculative transactions, the Government could consider increasing the RPGT rates for disposals made within five years from the date of acquisition of the property, which is currently at 10% and 5%, to perhaps the present corporate tax rate of 25%. Disposal after five years will be exempted from RPGT. Genuine home buyers should not be adversely affected by this measure.

A similar measure, although from a stamp duty perspective, was adopted by a neighbouring country whereby affected buyers are required to pay an Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty on top of the existing Buyer’s Stamp Duty. The affected buyers are mainly foreigners and non-individuals, or individuals who owned more than one or two residential properties. This is also an avenue for our Government to consider.

By NEOH BENG GUAN and NG SUE LYNN
·Neoh Beng Guan is executive director of KPMG Tax Services Sdn Bhd while Ng Sue Lynn is director.

1 comment:

  1. About 70% of the government’s revenue comes from taxes, of which a big portion is from direct taxes and the rest from indirect taxes.The direct taxes comprise petroleum tax, corporate tax and personal income tax.

    Less than 10% of the population pay taxes. Thus there is a need for a broad-based tax like the GST to be introduced to reduce both the personal income tax and government’s fiscal deficit.

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