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South Korea to toughen sanctions on habitual tax delinquents

South Korea will toughen sanctions on habitual tax delinquents who owe huge sums, amid growing public criticism over the problem.

“The government plans to toughen sanctions on taxpayers who habitually owe taxes despite being (financially) capable of paying, as public anger grows over the individuals who conceal their assets and live in luxury,” said a joint statement issued Wednesday by the ministries of finance, safety, health, law, justice, tax and customs. 

Lee Eun-hang, an official at the National Tax Service
Lee Eun-hang, an official at the National Tax Service

Beginning next year, individuals who intentionally evade taxes may face jail terms.

“People who evade paying national taxes on more than three occasions and who owe more than 100 million won ($84,327) in taxes for longer than a year will face up to 30 days in jail,” said a National Tax Service spokesperson.

Before tax agents seek arrest warrants, however, the accused people will have opportunities to respond to the accusations in consideration of human rights protection, the government said.

The related laws are expected to be amended by the end of this year and take effect next year.

The government will also toughen sanctions on suspected tax delinquents who attempt to leave the country.

Currently, the government can only ban delinquent taxpayers to whom passports have already been issued. This may create a legal loophole allowing individuals without valid passports to obtain them in a hurry and leave the country before the authorities can take action.

“For those who owe more than 50 million won in taxes without a valid excuse, they will be banned from leaving the country even if no passports have been issued to them,” the tax agency spokesperson said.

The Ministry of Justice plans to amend the Immigration Control Law in the second half of this year and build a system that will allow the justice and tax ministries to share relevant information.

By Shin Ji-hye (