Cambodian tax revenue sees mixed returns, down from '08

Cambodian tax revenue sees mixed returns, down from '08

General Department of Customs and Excise reports $200,000 rise in income from last month, but figures remain 13.6pc down from same period last year

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Men walk in front of the General Department of Customs and Excise on Monday in Phnom Penh. The department announced a slight rise in collected tax revenue in July.
Government tax revenue rose in July over the previous month, according to a report last week by the General Department of Customs and Excise, but year-on-year revenue for the month was down compared with the same period last year.

Customs and Excise reported revenue of US$51.4 million in July this year - an increase of $200,000 over last month. But revenue was 13.6 percent lower than that collected in July 2008.

Kum Nhem, the department's deputy general, said Monday the decline in tax revenue was due to a worsening global economic climate that had less impact last year on imported and exported goods.

"It is more difficult for us to get higher revenues in the current circumstances because the financial crisis is putting too much pressure on goods coming in and going out of Cambodia," he said.

Kum Nhem said the department was confident the decline in coming months would be minimal and cited steps taken to increase tax revenue on sand exports - a sector from which it has not yet been fully effective in collecting taxes.

"We expect tax revenues to increase significantly in November and December because of an increase in transportation during the dry season, which is usually much busier than the rainy season," Kum Nhem said.

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party member, said tax revenue should be much higher than reported, despite the marginal rise announced for last month, and that the government has yet to take appropriate steps to eliminate corruption among customs officers.

Some customs officers allow the transportation of goods through the Phnom Penh Port without requiring the payment of required taxes, Son Chhay said, adding that this practice accounts for much more lost revenue than reported.

"I think the government is still able to collect more tax revenue this year if they were willing to change the way collection is conducted, if they were to set a plan according to law," he said.

Tax revenues for the first seven months of this year reached $331 million, according to data provided by the excise and customs department, and more than $500 million in 2008.

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