Chinese top live streaming host fined 1.34 billion yuan ($210 million) for tax evasion

Top live streaming host Huang Wei has been fined 1.34 billion yuan ($210 million) for tax evasion, the latest step in stronger regulation of the booming live streaming e-commerce industry.

Huang, who is better known by her avatar Viya, was fined for concealing income and falsely declaring personal wages as operating income of sole proprietorships from 2019 to 2020, according to a statement released on Monday by the Hangzhou taxation bureau in Zhejiang province.

Under Chinese taxation law, some high-income earners can face higher tax rates than corporations.

The fine for Huang, who can attract 10 million followers for a live streaming show, was for converting 643 million yuan in personal wages and labor remuneration into income for multiple sole proprietorships, according to the statement. She also evaded another 60 million yuan in taxation over the period, the statement said.

Liu Jianwen, a professor at Peking University’s Law School, said the fine demonstrated taxation departments’ jurisdictional authority to handle such cases using appropriate legal provisions

In September, the State Taxation Administration issued a special notice stipulating that live streaming hosts who proactively report their tax-related misconduct and make due rectifications before the end of 2021 will receive a lighter punishment. So far, over 1,000 live streaming hosts have taken the initiative and paid outstanding taxes.

The platform economy, namely business transactions that arise from internet platforms such as live-streaming, has provided new opportunities and challenges. It has played an active role in better meeting consumers’ needs and promoting high-quality economic development. However, some live streaming hosts’ misconduct and illegal activities have “harmed the development of a fair and competitive market”, the inspection bureau of the Hangzhou taxation bureau said in a notice on Monday.

Tang Jiqiang, a professor at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, Sichuan province, told Xinhua News Agency that support for new economic platforms in China should not be used as an excuse for tax evasion.

China’s taxation authorities are required to strictly investigate and punish tax evasion behavior in accordance with the law and continue to optimize tax and fee services that promote the development of the platform economy in a fair environment, said the State Taxation Administration.

In November, two live streaming hosts, Zhu Chenhui and Lin Shanshan, were fined 65.5 million yuan and 27.6 million yuan respectively by taxation authorities in Hangzhou for evading their tax obligations.

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