China sets new online import tax rules

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​Beijing, March 27 (IANS) China will change the tax rules on online retail goods from April 8 to level the playing field for e-commerce platforms and traditional retailers and importers, a media report said on Sunday.

Retail goods purchased online will no longer be classified as "parcels," which enjoy a "parcel tax" rate, lower than that on other imported goods. Instead, online purchases from overseas will be charged in the same way as any other imported goods, the ministry of finance (MOF) announced.

"Parcel tax is not for trade purposes, which is exactly what online retailing is. It is unfair to conventional importers and domestic producers," said Zhang Bin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China levies parcel tax on imported goods worth less than 1,000 yuan ($150), and the rates is mostly 10 percent. Taxes under 50 yuan are waived, the People's Daily reported.

As demand for overseas goods grows, online purchasing agents have taken advantage of parcel tax and used new methods such as repackaging and mailing products separately to avoid tax.

The new policy only allows a maximum of 2,000 yuan per single cross-border transaction and a maximum of 20,000 yuan per person per year. Goods that exceed these limits will be levied the full tax for general trade, the MOF said.

The new policy will speed up customs clearance so consumers will receive most orders from overseas within two weeks, instead of the current two months.

The expansion of the pilot zones came at a time when the country is facing sluggish foreign trade. Total export and import value for 2015 decreased 7 percent year on year, falling for the first time in six years.​

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