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Last Updated:[02-02-2010 22:14:21 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

China to Tax E-tailers as an Act of Internet Regulation

tradenews China’s Administration for Industry and Commerce will soon keep tabs on its online businesses to check fraud and generate revenue through one of the country’s fastest growing industries. A new proposal which is expected to be rolled out by mid-March this year will force entrepreneurs of online stores to register and pay tax.

According to sources, the department responsible for business registration and regulation of China is likely to charge a registration fee between $15 and $30 depending upon the area of business. Similarly, sales tax of 3 percent will be charged on total online sales.

Though Beijing province promulgated similar registration and taxation process back in 2008 none of the online firms got enrolled in the program till date due to non-enforcement of the rule. An official of the Beijing Bureau of Industry and Commerce, Wu Song stated that all internet business entities should be in accordance with any other businesses in the country.

However, there was no confirmation on how the department would tackle those who infringe on the law. It is been assumed that the penalties would range from onsite warning that could damage the reputation of the firm to complete shutting down of the access to the respective perpetrator’s portal.

A recent release by an online marketing research firm, iResearch says that the online revenue generated in the country from advertising, games and shopping totaled about $11bn last year, up by 30 percent. Besides, the company is upbeat on the prospect of online revenue generation to grow by 51 percent to reach $16.5bn this fiscal.

On the flipside, some fear that the new regulation on e-tailers would hamper the industry’s stupendous growth as startup cost and prices of the merchandise on offer would rise significantly. Currently, online stores offer lower prices than the physical ones.

Nevertheless, another school of thought feel the new regulation would substantially reduce online frauds, and would rather streamline the industry. Online stores have negligible or no inventory cost, and therefore, they are able to offer products for lower prices as compared to its brick and mortar counterparts.

The figures from the Beijing Bureau of Industry and Commerce show that around 4,700 complaints on e-tailers were investigated in Beijing alone in 2009, with 1,067 prosecuted. The county which has close to 400mn internet users has today more than 1mn online stores to shop from.

Lately, China has taken several initiatives to regulate internet activities including alleged disinformation campaigns; and the new proposal is largely designed to protect consumer rights. According to China Internet Network Information Center, combined retail sales amounted to only about 2 percent of total retail sales of consumer goods in 2009, and the online retail sales grew 94 percent in the year to total $36.6bn.

By Jose Roy

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