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China says celebrities have 10 days to cough up unpaid taxes

(E-commerce livestreamer Huang Wei was ordered to pay a record 204 million USD fine for tax evasion this week. Photo: AFP)

BEIJING, (AFP):- China’s tax authorities have set a 10-day deadline for entertainers and social media influencers to pay overdue taxes, part of a government campaign to tighten the noose on tax evasion and celebrity excesses.

Beijing has launched a sweeping state crackdown on tax evasion and perceived immoral behaviour in the entertainment industry, a tightening that has already targeted some of the country’s biggest stars.

Tax bureaus in several entertainment hubs across the country — including Beijing, Shanghai, and the provinces of Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu — warned celebrities who have under-reported earnings could face severe penalties if they don’t refile by year end, according to government notices issued Wednesday.

“If the self-inspection and self-correction are still refused or… not thorough, the taxation department will seriously deal with it,” a statement from the Guangdong tax office said.

The order comes after China’s “livestreaming queen” Huang Wei was ordered to pay a record $200 million fine for tax evasion on Monday, with her social media accounts with over 110 million followers shut down a day later.

Chinese actress Zheng Shuang was also hit with a $46 million fine for tax evasion in August.

Actress Fan Bingbing’s career has been on ice since a 2018 tax evasion scandal.

Fan was one of China’s highest paid actresses before her downfall and appeared in the X-Men and Iron Man film franchises.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has said it had “zero tolerance” for tax evasion and entertainers’ “sky-high pay”.

The tightening coincides with the launch of President Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” drive to reduce economic inequality — partly by reining in excessive incomes in the entertainment and technology sectors.

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