Burma Tax Department Says 2,500 Tax-Evading Firms Named in Error

By San Yamin Aung 14 March 2014

RANGOON — The Burma government’s tax department has admitted that it mistakenly named nearly 2,500 companies as tax evaders.

The Internal Revenue Department (IRD) on March 6 published a list of 10,670 companies that it said had failed to pay taxes for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ended in March 2013. The list included well known companies like Tay Za’s Asia Green Development (AGD) Bank and Serge Pun’s Yoma Bank.

But the effort to boost the government’s poor tax collection led to embarrassment after an apparent clerical error. IRD quickly received complaints from companies wrongly included in the list, and removed the list from its website.

On Thursday, it posted a new list including only 8,220 companies.

“Over 2,000 companies listed in original list were included because of computer error,” Thin Htut Han, IRD’s vice director told The Irrawaddy, explaining that the list that was first published had not been properly updated.

“The remaining companies will only be removed from the list if they contact to the department and pay their overdue taxes before the end of this month.”

Among the wrongly identified tax evaders were AGD Bank, Yoma Bank, the Small & Medium Industrial Development Bank, A-1 Garment Company, Korea Development Bank, the Dagon Group of Companies, Ayeyar Hinthar Trading Company and Mahar Shwe Yadanar Myay Company.

“It bothered me,” said Myint Zaw, managing director of Mahar Shwe Yadanar Myay Company, which imports palm oil to Burma.

Myint Zaw said the IRD had quickly responded to the company’s complaint about being wrongly named, but said the department’s mistake could cause misunderstandings among the company’s shareholders and management.

“Companies have to pay commercial tax and income tax to IRD. We have never failed to pay taxes every year. IRD should be more careful in future,” he said.

AGD bank and IRD held a joint press conference in Rangoon on Tuesday to clarify the mistake.

Ye Min Oo, AGD Bank’s managing director insisted that the bank was a regular taxpayer.

“I assume that the media reported about [AGD Bank’s inclusion in the list] because they had misunderstood the procedures of banks. Bank procedures are not the same as other companies. All banks are working under the strict discipline of the Central Bank of Myanmar because banks are working with money,” Ye Min Oo said, referring to banks’ regular reporting requirements.

Tin Htun Naing, director of Companies Circle Tax Office, part of the IRD, told reporters that some companies contacted the department and alerted them to their names being on the list incorrectly.

“We released the list with the good intention of collecting overdue taxes, but that the list was incorrect was a shock to us all,” he said.

“We admit our error and apologize for that.”