January 29, 2018 / 6:24 AM / 9 months ago

South Korea may delay widening capital gains tax net for foreign investors

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s finance minister said on Monday that the government may delay the implementation of a proposed widening of its capital gains tax base for foreign investors, which was due to take effect from July.

FILE PHOTO: South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon speaks during his inaugural ceremony in Sejong government complex in Sejong, South Korea, June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Kim Dong-yeon said he had received feedback from representatives of the international investment community about the proposal and that he would review the matter.

“(The government) could possibly suspend applying the revised tax and this will be decided depending on the interest of the foreign investors,” Kim told reporters after a meeting.

His comments contrast with reassurances from his ministry last week that the revised tax regulation would have limited impact on stock markets as they only applied to investors from nations with which South Korea does not have tax treaties.

South Korea had proposed cutting the shareholding ownership threshold at which the capital gains tax on listed securities transactions is triggered to 5 percent from current 25 percent. This would have increased the number of foreign investors affected by the tax.

Kim noted on Monday he had been given several opinions regarding the tax change and that he met a representative of investors from Singapore. Singapore is one of the countries that South Korea does not have a tax treaty with.

He did not elaborate on the substance of the opinions.

“I will fully review this issue in a responsive manner,” said Kim.

President Moon Jae-in’s administration has vowed to boost household income and has imposed bigger taxes on wealthy South Koreans and leading conglomerates to fund rising welfare costs and make housing more affordable.

The move to widen the investor tax base includes increased capital gains taxes for domestic investors last August. Currently, capital gains tax is only applied to large shareholders with stakes exceeding 1 percent or holding 2.5 billion won worth of KOSPI-listed stocks, but will gradually be applied on a larger range of investors this year.

Adding to investor concerns last week, international equity index compiler MSCI said the proposals on the capital gains tax thresholds for foreign investors, if implemented, could potentially decrease the amount of Korean stocks held by foreigners.

Reporting by Shinhyung Lee, Dahee Kim; Editing by Sam Holmes

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