Financial authorities are consolidating their resources to tackle external challenges that could hamper the implementation of the governments flagship tax amnesty program.
Southeast Asias largest economy has been struggling to find alternative sources of state revenue as it feels the pinch of the global economic slowdown and plunging energy prices.
To help plug the widening state budget deficit, the government is expecting to collect over Rp 165 trillion (US$12.5 billion) in penalty payments from its nine-month tax amnesty program, which kicked off in July.
The program, however, faced a major challenge last week following media reports that Singaporean banks had informed local police about the identity of Indonesian clients who had repatriated funds to participate in the amnesty program.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati quickly responded to the news, saying she had spoken with the Singaporean authorities, including Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, seeking an official explanation. She said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) had insisted that Indonesians participation in the tax amnesty could not be considered an action that would trigger criminal investigations.
The governments efforts to clear the way for its tax amnesty program, however, did not stop there.
The Financial Services Authority (OJK) confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that it had invited representatives of the local arms of three Singaporean banks, namely Bank OCBC NISP, UOB Indonesia and DBS Indonesia, to a meeting on the previous day.
The meeting, led by OJK deputy commissioner for banking supervision Irwan Lubis, aimed to seek clarification on whether Singaporean banks had reported to the local police about Indonesians repatriating their funds from the city-state.
I assert that the OJK pay attention to the success of the tax amnesty program and ask the banks to fully support and communicate [the program] to their parent companies in Singapore, Irwan said, as quoted in the statement.
Singapore, where Indonesians hold an estimated $200 billion in private banking assets 40 percent of the islands total private banking assets made tax evasion a money-laundering offense in 2013.
It is strengthening the implementation of the law after an investigation into state-backed fund 1MDB in neighboring Malaysia exposed how some of its banks had failed to impose robust controls on suspicious money flows.
OCBC NISP president director Parwati Surjaudaja confirmed the Tuesday meeting with OJK officials.
We have explained [to the OJK] that we support [the program]. Bank OCBC NISP and OCBC Group have a clear commitment to support this good program, she told The Jakarta Post.
The support, she added, was expressed in its proposal to the Finance Ministry to become a gateway bank, which was approved last week, as well as intensive dissemination efforts in Indonesia and Singapore and special training for staff, among other things.
Despite starting with a bang, the amnesty program implementation has shown sluggish progress.
The amount of redemption payments rose significantly after the Taxation Directorate General changed its dashboard format. The figure had reached Rp 32.9 trillion as of Wednesday evening, almost 20 percent of the governments target of Rp 165 trillion. Declared assets reached Rp 1.3 quadrillion, of which Rp 71.2 trillion was repatriated assets.
In an effort to encourage more taxpayers to participate in the program, the Finance Ministry is preparing at least three more finance minister regulations (PMK) that will relax several requirements and clarify doubts and provisions stipulated in existing PMK.
The spirit of the measure is not to change the existing regulations but to complement [the regulations] and to diminish [taxpayers] doubts, the Finance Ministrys financing and risk management director general Robert Pakpahan told a press briefing on Wednesday.
The proposed PMK will regulate a nominee system, an allowance for owners of inactive special purpose vehicles (SPV) to not dissolve their firms and a more relaxed schedule for investment development reports and investment profit withdrawals, which have stirred public concerns.
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